Jane Juedeman Unlocks the Door to Reading

Jane Juedeman loves the challenge of unlocking the door to the world of reading for her OASIS students. To see a child's self-confidence and reading ability blossom and grow energizes her and makes all her time and efforts worthwhile.

When Juedeman retired after 33 years of teaching mostly third graders, there was a void in her life. She knew she wanted to do volunteer work, but says "I also knew I wanted to continue to work with children." 

When a fellow teacher told her about the OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program, she was really excited. "Now I could volunteer and still continue to work with children, but without all the pressure and paperwork!" What's more, she tutors at her former school, Mesnier Elementary, in Affton, Missouri. There she tries to impart a love for reading and self-confidence in the Kindergarteners, second and third graders which she tutors individually each week.

It takes patience and a little imagination, something Juedeman has plenty of, to discover what each child's interests are. Once you discover this, she says, you have the key that unlocks the door to the world of reading for each child.

"At the beginning of the year, I use a small booklet called 'All About Me.' It gets them talking about things they enjoy doing on say, a rainy day, or with their family or on vacation. Pets are a great jumping-off point, since most children have at least one at home."

She recalls one second grade boy in particular, who was not interested in reading. Try as she may, she could not come up with anything that excited him. Then one day, by accident she discovered he had a keen interest in football.

"I began using various football stories and games to build up his enthusiasm for reading. He really came alive when I asked him, 'If you had a football team, what would their jersey look like and what name would they have?' He went so far as to design and decorate a shirt for his team! Toward the end of the year he was the one bringing in books to read, rather than me. This was so thrilling to see. Even his teacher remarked on how much progress he had made. It is very rewarding to have a teacher say she sees great improvement in a child. That they are more willing to choose a book and try to read it now, or raise their hand more often in class, because they have grown in self-confidence."

Juedeman has been a St. Louis OASIS tutor for the past 4 years and has loved every minute of it. "I feel I am still helping someone even a little bit and it keeps me in touch with children." She tries to recruit people for the program every chance she gets. Anyone can be a tutor, she says. "You don't need to have an education background." All you need is a love for children and a willingness to spend time with them helping to develop a love for reading. OASIS offers a basic training program for tutors before the school year begins. After that, there are monthly meetings with a coordinator, where new ideas, success stories and materials are freely shared.

Now, she says "I am even working on recruiting my husband, a former high school teacher, for the program." No doubt, he'll be hooked, as her enthusiasm is contagious!

By Elinor Hayes, St. Louis OASIS Volunteer