Susan Dowd came to ReadingPartners literacy program with experience under her belt. Her husband Joe had none. But both hope that they are making a difference to our nation's future - one student at a time.
When the Tulsa chapter of the national literacy program came to Inverness Village in search of volunteers four years ago, the Dowds signed right up.
“I am making a contribution to a young person who will be an active citizen in this country long after I’m gone,” Joe says.
For Susan, ReadingPartners felt like a natural progression of her skills and interests. An avid reader, she had worked with the local library teaching English as a Second Language and helping people work toward citizenship.
Each year has brought a different experience, challenge and reward, Susan, 67, notes. “One year, my student and I just had an immediate connection,” she says. “She was just so friendly and sweet. Another year, oh my goodness gracious, the child would just freeze up even though I knew she could do it. Eventually, though, she got comfortable with me and it was so rewarding to see the progress.”
Joe, who is approaching 90, tutors boys and says he has not had any problem developing a rapport with them. “I’m a father of five, so I have a little experience in that department,” he says. “I pretty much lay down the law with them about the purpose we’re together and what I expect from them. That I’m not there for fun and games and that I expect them to participate.”
Despite this rather stern-sounding introduction, Susan says the boys really enjoy Joe. “The first time I heard him saying that I thought, ‘Oh boy,’ but I’ve been surprised,” she laughs. “They respond to him.”
It’s always bittersweet when the school year ends, the Dowds note, because it is rare to see the student again, even though they remain in the same school. ReadingPartners ends the year with a special program at the school, and the Dowds present their students with two books that align with their reading interests.
Although Joe says the once-a-week sessions are a small contribution of his time, he feels that cumulatively, it could make a big difference to the country. ”From a selfish point of view,” he adds, “I get the satisfaction of doing something worthwhile and seeing my efforts bear fruit.”