Volunteers needed for North Port reading camp

Veronica Harty, 68, volunteered to help three third-grade students with reading comprehension and writing skills last summer as part of Sarasota County School District’s Summer Reading Camp. She's volunteering again at Gulf Gate Elementary this summer. 

Veronica Harty, 68, volunteered to help three third-grade students with reading comprehension and writing skills last summer as part of Sarasota County School District’s Summer Reading Camp. She's volunteering again at Gulf Gate Elementary this summer. 

Veronica Harty read about space exploration and the ocean with three third grade students last summer.

One boy with blond hair and glasses liked sports. The girl liked to chat. All three were in danger of being held back.

Harty, a former teacher, volunteered to help students who failed the Florida Standards Assessment as part of the school district’s Summer Reading Camp. She listened to them read, asked questions and showed them how to write. All in the hopes they would make it to fourth grade.

“I loved giving them that attention,” Harty, 68, said.

She loved it so much she’s coming back this year, she said. But Sarasota County Schools still needs more volunteers at Lamarque Elementary in North Port.

The district needs about 35 volunteers for this summer’s camp, which runs from June 13 to July 28, not including the week of July 4, said Suzanne Naiman, the district’s English language arts specialist for elementary. Volunteers help once a week from noon to 1:30 p.m.

North Port has the highest need for volunteers, she said.

The camp will be offered at three schools: Brentwood Elementary and Gulf Gate Elementary, in Sarasota, and Lamarque Elementary, in North Port.

Schools were chosen based on location, Naiman said, with one each serving the north, central and south part of the county.

Between the three schools, she said she expects about 200 students to be invited to participate. Parents and guardians will be notified if their child can attend.

Florida legislation requires third graders to show mastery in English before moving to fourth grade, Naiman said. Students can take either the FSA, the SAT 10 or show proficiency on the Third Grade Portfolio to move on.

The program also helps students avoid the “summer slide,” where they can lose momentum, Naiman said.

“We don’t want to leave any child behind,” she said.

Those interested can contact the district’s Volunteer and Partnership Office, said Tanice Knopp, the coordinator of the volunteer and partnership program.

After passing a criminal background check, volunteers attend a 2-hour training session on how to help students with fluency in reading and vocabulary.

Knopp said last year, many volunteers were retirees. This created an intergenerational experience for participants.

“It’s only a few pages, but it’s a very rich experience between the student and the volunteer,” she said. “It’s just a fun, warm interaction.”