Voices aims to help minority and low-income kids.
Connie Bustos would rather do than spend her time with 80 to 100 little
“It’s kind of cool, and crazy in the same way,” Bustos said as children
scrambled for their backpacks at the end of story time recently. “It helps the
Spanish kids learn English and the English kids learn Spanish. And it’s more
education for them than just during school hours."
Three days per
week, the 11-year-old Bustos reads to Auburn Elementary School students after
school. Sometimes the students read to her. Then there are the parents reading
to students, children reading to parents and students even reading to one
It’s a lot of reading, in care of Parents With Voices.
The volunteers focus on raising literacy among minority and low-income students
by donating their own reading skills and time.
“It doesn’t take much to help a child,” said Teresa Villafan, the program’s
director. “But it will take a lot to support these children later on” if they
don’t learn to read well.
The parents began the program at Auburn in September and plan to begin similar
reading hours at Grant Community School and Four Corners Elementary School,
possibly later this school year.
When the Auburn program was announced, Villafan received 300 applications. She
only has room for 100 students. She said that parents were excited by a free
program that would inspire children to read more often.
The volunteers either split up with small groups of students or work one-on-one.
Students read and are read to in English and Spanish and work on projects
related to the stories they have read.
Villafan said she appreciates the 38 parents who already volunteer, but that she
needs more to reach a goal of one parent for every two children.
The ratio was more like 80-to-1 last week when a special guest came to Auburn to
read to a library full of wiggling students.
After reading several short books, Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, got a standing
chorus of “thank you” from the young readers.
“Those of us know that if you can’t read, you won’t be able to achieve in life,”
Winters said afterward. “Reading is the gateway to achievement.”
Besides parent volunteers, Villafan said the students need donations of books to
take home with them.
“If we don’t get to the kids now, we may lose that passion and have them lose
interest as they get into middle school,” she said.
Tara McLain can be reached at