Health & Education

Delphian School students reading to Tribal youth

02.14.2014 Dean Rhodes Education

As many as 16 Delphian School students are reading to 47 children enrolled in the Tribal Education Department's pre-school classes.

As their required community project, mostly senior and junior students, but also including some from middle and elementary grades, chose to be readers in the Tribe's SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) reading program.

"This seemed very fulfilling," said senior Jessup Jong, a South Korean native aspiring to study political science in college. He is the program lead this year. "It's work toward a cause I believe in," he said. "Increasing literacy in children."

Jong works under faculty adviser John Glenski, who started this community program last year.

"It's a real good thing both ways," said Glenski. "It's a chance for the students to be out in the community, and for the HeadStart students to get this encouragement to read at a young age."

Of the three classes attending, all are pre-school, but only Chak Chak and Mawaich are HeadStart-funded programs.

The philosophy of the SMART program is to help children acquire essential skills early. "Also," said Jong, "if they develop this interest early, they'll read for the rest of their life."

SMART provides the Grand Ronde program with 200 books each year. Pre-schoolers are invited to take one book home a month. For the October-May program, about half of this year's books are gone, said Tribal Librarian Marion Mercier.

The Delphian School also is collecting books to give to SMART students, both in Grand Ronde and at Willamina Elementary, where Delphian students also read to young students, Jong said.

On Thursday, Feb. 6, Glenski and a group of 11 Delphian students arrived at the Tribal Library. Once a week, on Thursdays, they come for nearly two hours when they read to as many as 47 Tribal and non-Tribal pre-schoolers who are 3, 4 and 5 years of age.

Catie Currier, a junior from Clearwater, Fla., is an aspiring actor. Before coming to the Northwest, she attended the Clearwater Delphian School that only served students through middle school. She joined this community project after Jong invited her.

"I love little kids," she said. She noted that her 4-year-old niece brought out the excitement of working with little children. "The energy they have for everything they do. They have a lot of passion."

It's maybe not accidental that she notices these things in children. Of herself, she says, "If I want to do something, I want to do it all out."

As many of the Delphian readers noticed, the young listeners started out shy, but after working with the same reader week after week, they became confident and outspoken.

"They'll see me and say, 'Catie!' "

"Do you promise to read the snake book this week?" Esten Kimsey, from the Lilu class, asked her.

Currier told him that they would read the book next week.

"Just that he's excited about it makes me very happy. He taught me about giving things a chance," she said. "He was shy at the start, holding his teacher's hand. He was in a shell, but now he's come out of his shell."

Riley Sonz, a sophomore from Tampa, Fla., also attended the Delphian School at Clearwater and came to the Sheridan Delphian for high school. He's a sports guy, playing basketball, tennis and baseball.

He also decided to work for the program as a result of Jong, hearing about it from a school-wide message.

"It's a really good feeling to put a smile on their faces and make it fun to read," Sonz said. He also read to children during his Florida school experience. "Seeing a kid reading, I just think it's great."

Of Bailey Woods, from the Mawaich class, Sonz says, "I've made a connection. She's a lot happier than when I first met her."

One of the keys, he adds, is to not treat them like children, but "just have fun with them."

Of Travis Lugo, also in the Mawaich class, he said, "His persistence to learn, to put his own thoughts out there, I've never really seen that before."

The program in Grand Ronde started last year, said Mercier.

"Our role is to facilitate," she said. "They love getting to take a book home and they love to read. When they start, they're timid." Later on, she said, "their excitement takes over."

"The Delphian students are so mature. They're like young teachers. They seem to have a joy for working with little kids. Plus, they love books. It's awesome to see and that gets passed on to the kids. We appreciate the service they are doing."

Vikki Bishop, Early Childhood Education Program Manager, said, "The focused, individualized attention is the most important. They get more, and it's always nice to have a new person involved in their life."

She also mentioned the benefits of being read to "because a lot of parents don't have the time to do it. Hopefully, they walk away with the idea that reading is important."

 "The 4- and 5-year-old kids are much more interested in the book part," says Bishop, "and the younger kids are maybe more interested in their new friend."