Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Ajit Gandabhai of Franklin D Roosevelt Park Primary
25 June, 2018
I’ve always known that every child is on their own unique journey as they grow and develop. It was only when I became a Volunteer Reading Helper in 2014 that I realised the important role that reading plays along that journey of development.
I start my reading sessions with learners by gauging their energy levels and mood as we walk to the reading room together. We receive unconditional support from the school principal and teachers, which inspires me to provide the same support to my learners. So every time I fetch a learner from their classroom, I use it as an opportunity to have a word with each learner, and I always ensure that the conversation is of a cheerful nature. This really helps to set the tone for the lesson ahead.
Each child’s reading journey is different. For some struggling readers, once their self-esteem is restored, their reading flourishes. For others, I first establish their level of reading and then convince them that they can read better, and they do! A saying, “You can read, but together you will read even better”, has been true for my learners.
It is always so rewarding to see how learners progress. I beamed with joy when a Grade 3 pupil read a newspaper article without batting an eyelid. When the pupil realised he was going to be taken off the programme in the 3rd term, he pretended he couldn’t read because he loved the sessions so much. In another instance, a Grade 2 learner casually used the word “reflection” in a conversation, which made my day!
I was pleasantly surprised one day when Grade 4 to 6 learners asked me for books to read, which gave rise to an informal book club that meets during break time. Books are exchanged and sometimes a prompt discussion takes place about a book one of them has read.
Some of my learners have attempted to teach me their mother tongue language, which is proving to be a disaster. The spin-off, however, is that it shows my learners that it’s never too late to learn to read and speak while providing them with a good laugh at my expense.
While volunteering as a Reading Helper at different schools, some overcrowded and others under-resourced, I’ve been exposed to a lot of need in addition to reading help. I took the opportunity to raise funds among friends and family to buy school uniforms for needy children.
Since responding to the newspaper ad calling for volunteers back in 2014, I’ve discovered a whole new world of reading and my life has been enriched through wonderful workshops, interaction with other volunteers and school personnel, and of course, the incredible learners that I’ve worked with. It’s been an honour to be a part of so many reading journeys over the years.
– Ajit Gandabhai, Volunteer at Franklin D Roosevelt Park Primary School and Claremont Primary School