Guest post by Luci Unferth, a fifth-grade teacher. Editor’s Note: January is National Mentoring Month! To celebrate, we’ve partnered with Cricket Media to share stories about the positive impact mentoring — especially eMentoring — can have on young people’s lives. If you told me a few months ago that my fifth-grade classroom’s most reluctant readers would be jumping at the chance to read letters, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what happened, thanks to volunteer mentors. Let me explain. I’m a fifth-grade teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. My 27 students, who vary in both reading ability and reading interest, are fortunate to be a part of CricketTogether — an eMentoring program that matches students with virtual volunteers. The Cricket units are aligned with our grade-level standards and are filled with interesting and appealing stories. I choose the unit that correlates with what I am teaching and my students choose a story that they want to read and share with their mentors. Mentoring leaves a positive imprint on youth’s lives. Young people with mentors have better attitudes about school, enhanced self-esteem, improved relationships, and are less likely to drop out of school. Our e-mentors are fabulous. It’s so fun to see the excitement in my students when they receive a letter from their mentors. My reluctant readers ask me if they can go on CricketTogether when they first come in to class. It is inspiring them to read and discuss what they are reading. Surprisingly, several of these reluctant readers have chosen some of the more challenging stories! They’ve risen to the challenge, reading the stories several times to look for important information to ask their mentors. The students work together on their stories and have book club conversations. This is something that they developed on their own, and not something I required! It’s extremely rewarding for me as a teacher to read the letters my students are writing and exchanging with their mentors about their stories. They’re reading for enjoyment, talking about what they’re reading and are excited about it. The best part is that the motivation for reading has increased and it is impacting their academic achievement. Inspired by Luci’s story? This National Mentoring Month, become an eMentor yourself! Check out CricketTogether or these mentoring volunteer opportunities to learn how you or your company can get involved.
Author Bio: Luci Unferth is a fifth-grade teacher at Hawk Ridge Elementary. This is her 14th year teaching, and she has taught second, third, fourth, and now, fifth grade. She is married to her wonderful husband, Larry, and has three sons — Zach, Sam, and Ardrey.