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Teaching the power of reading

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When CedarBridge Academy student Christopher Pacheco, 14, first met his new reading mentor, Damany Phifer, he was a little nervous.

He was receiving extra reading help in school, but he wasn't sure if a reading mentor was what he needed.

Eight months later, Christopher has made up his mind. Thanks to Mr Phifer's help and encouragement, Christopher's grades have shot up. He's received a 90 in English this year and is on the honour roll.

“He has taught me to never give up and to just read,” said Christopher. “I never enjoyed reading and I wasn't at my grade level so they put me in reading class. Mr Phifer helped me to boost my grade.”

Mr Phifer, who is a speech language pathologist at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, said he couldn't be more proud.

“I am so happy he made the Honour Roll this semester,” said Mr Phifer. “That made my day when I heard about that.

“It is not anything that I am doing, it is what he has decided to do. He has decided to take an interest in reading and improving his grades.”

Mr Phifer is one of 20 volunteers who work with students in Literacy Coordinator Yolanda Ming's reading class.

“This programme was of interest to me because I used to work in education,” said Mr Phifer, who is originally from Michigan.

He has lived in Bermuda with his family for the last four years.

“I used to teach reading. I know how important it is to have volunteers come in and help.

“It was nice to be able to participate. As a teacher I saw the impact that volunteers could have on students.”

Christopher and Mr Phifer read many different types of writing from fiction to non-fiction.

They used books, magazines like Newsweek and Time, and articles from the internet.

“I have tried to expose him to lots of different types of reading,” said Mr Phifer. “We try to read everything. We are going to encounter different types of reading out there.

“I first heard about this from Mr Lyndon Jackson at the Bermuda College. My wife works there.

“He told me about the reading volunteer programme. I got in touch with Mrs Ming, at CedarBridge.

“She said I could come whenever my schedule allowed.

“I was only needed half an hour a week. I work for the hospital and I am a speech language pathologist.

“My supervisor was kind enough to allow me to rearrange my schedule at work to be able to come in here for a half an hour in the mornings on Fridays to work with Christopher.”

He said he would have devoted more time, if he he'd been able to spare it.

“We talked about school things such as what it means to be a student,” said Mr Phifer. “We discussed growing up and making positive choices.

“It has been nice to work with Christopher and to see him get better at reading.”

Christopher said he was never a big fan of reading.

“I would read once in a blue moon,” he said. “I never wanted to read what people said I should read.

“Now I am reading the newspaper online, and books. I just finished a book in Mrs Ming's class called Free Ride.”

Sadly, Christopher and Mr Phifer will say good by at the end of the term, as Mr Phifer is moving to California with his family where he will continue to work as a speech language pathologist. They plan to keep in touch, however.

“Presently, all of our volunteers are doing well, but Mr Phifer was a special case,” said Mrs Ming. “I saw a real turn around with Christopher.

“He started to enjoy reading. I thought this is great. We really need the community to come in and give back.”

Mrs Ming said she is now looking for more volunteers to join the volunteer reading programme.

“It is a great programme,” she said. “It is great to have the community involved.

“It is just 30 minutes once a week, although some volunteers do more time. I like a quote by poet Maya Angelou, ‘be the change you want to see'.”

For more information, contact Mrs Ming at CedarBridge Academy at 296-5665 ext 2136.

Christopher Pacheco and reading volunteer Damany Phifer.
Volunteers in the CedarBridge Academy reading mentor programme. CedarBridge recently held a special appreciation lunch to thank their reading mentors for their hard work.

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Published June 19, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 18, 2014 at 11:15 pm)

Teaching the power of reading

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