Every day in Austin, we’re working to ensure each child has access to high-quality education, every family has the tools they need to be financially stable, and health and human services are readily available for all.
Decker Middle School students in our VPL program volunteered at Decker Literacy Night on February 11th. The students in the UWATX VPL (Volunteer Project Leader) program work together to learn to become the next community leaders through afterschool and out-of-school volunteer projects they coordinate and run. Decker Literacy Night was coordinated by the literacy specialist at the middle school, and UWATX’s VPL students designed a booth where they led activities for other students.
Last semester, Decker’s VPL students self-selected into project teams after a discussion about social issues that resulted in identifying four need areas that the students wanted to learn more about and support. These areas include: homelessness and hunger, environmental justice, children and literacy, and food and nutrition. Each issue area then chose a name for their project team and have undertaken project planning and leadership activities to help them build their team’s experience.
The Big Read team, which focuses on children and literacy, led the Literacy Night booth project. While all VPL students supported the Literacy Night booth, Big Read came up with the ideas, led the activities and served as the project spokespeople.
Decker VPL students were in charge of coming up with a theme and creating their booth. They designed a creative and colorful “Critics’ Corner” to give book recommendations and generate excitement about reading among their peers. Popular titles included “The Fault In Our Stars,” “Wonder,” “Girl In a Box” and “The Hunger Games.” Two Young Leaders Society executive members, Frances Jordan and Ward Hoffman, volunteered at the event by helping the students run their booth.
The second part of the display hosted the “Two-Page Challenge.” VPL students challenged Literacy Night attendees to read two pages aloud from a book on their reading level to take home a prize of their choice from the literacy-themed prize table. Anyone who undertook the Two-Page Challenge also took home a colorful pencil, a bookmark made by a VPL student and a letter encouraging daily reading. UWATX gave away about 40 prizes ranging from Dr. Seuss book sets to middle school books and a school supply set.
Other projects the Big Read VPL team have undertaken this year include creating book posters, sorting books for donation, assisting in the school library and making bookmarks with literacy tips for other children.
We asked Decker VPL students about why they think it’s important to read, and the students came up with these answers:
- “It will help you do well in school and get a good job!”
- “It will improve your vocabulary.”
- “It will make you a better writer.”
- “Reading makes you a wordsmith!”
- “It’s entertaining.”
- “It will make you a better communicator!”
- “Reading takes you places!”
- “Reading stacks you up!”