Queen Street Readers: a lesson for our community

Now just a week shy of his 94th birthday, Tom Galbreath doesn’t remember exactly when he learned to read – just that he’s been doing it for many, many years. It is not a skill, however, that time has led him to take for granted.
That’s why on a recent Thursday Galbreath sits in a chair too small for his frame, at a table he can’t get his knees under, and reads from a thin book about Fairy Flora, enchanting a group of tiny children in the LCPS pre-K program at Teacher’s Memorial School.

Tom Galbreath got into the Queen Street Readers "through the backdoor" but now has no intention of leaving.

Tom Galbreath got into the Queen Street Readers “through the backdoor” but now has no intention of leaving.

He is one of a group of 20 or so volunteers from Queen Street United Methodist Church who call themselves the Queen Street Readers. About a dozen of them come to school to read to the system’s youngest students one Thursday a month as they have for nearly 14 years, first at Southeast Elementary School and, when its pre-K program moved, to Teacher’s.
When they come to read, they bring enough books so that each child can take one home.
Galbreath takes home a sense of satisfaction.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of doing this,” he says. “These little children are just as nice as they can be.”
The reading program grew out of the church’s Hand-in-Hand ministry, a response to the denomination’s call for an initiative focusing on children and families. “We were looking to partner the faith community with a school,” says Dee Adkins, a church member and one of about 30 Hand-in-Hand volunteers. “We chose Southeast because of the need. When they moved the pre-school, we did not feel comfortable leaving those children.”
Hand-in-Hand “acts more as a PTA at Southeast,” Adkins says, and is part of some activity at the Kinston elementary school every week during the school year, whether it’s a luncheon for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week or an ice cream party to celebrate the school’s Battle of the Books team.
“This is our church’s primary ministry,” she says. “This one has the most people involved in it and more of our resources go to it.”
Galbreath says he got involved with the Queen Street Readers “through the backdoor.”
“My wife was doing it,” he says, “and I used to drive her over and sit in the car. Then I thought I might as well do it, too.”
Now he looks forward to that monthly appointment with 4-year-olds. “I’m trying to give them a firm foundation for their education,” he says.

Volunteers are essential to public schools. The involvement of parents and other members of a school community through the PTA, in the classroom and during after-school activities not only makes a school function more smoothly, but also helps cement that essential relationship between public and public education. The lesson we learn from volunteer groups like the Queen Street Readers — whose ties to a school and its students aren’t personal but entirely altruistic — is that education should be a community effort; that the more a community gives to education, the more it gets.
This lesson especially applies in fundamental areas of learning like reading. One of LCPS’s goals for improvement is to ensure our students are proficient readers by the end of the second grade. How much easier we could achieve that goal with the help of the community, with efforts to encourage parents to read, to get books into the hands of children, to preach the importance — and the pleasures — of reading. http://tinyurl.com/l9s5mjq