"There are children out there who need us," says OASIS volunteer Esther Taylor. That's what keeps the retired nurse from San Antonio coming back week after week, year after year, to her work with the San Antonio OASIS Tutoring Program.
Taylor got hooked on helping kids become better readers when she saw what she was able to accomplish with her own grandson, Clendon. The second grader was struggling with reading when Taylor and her husband moved from New York back to San Antonio, just two doors down from their grandchildren.
"The kids would come to us after school and I spent time listening to him read about twenty minutes a day," Taylor recalls.
With his grandmother's help, Clendon became a stronger reader. Today, he's an honor student on the verge of graduating from high school. And his proud grandmother discovered a new passion of her own.
"I thought to myself, 'If I can teach this child, what could I be doing for other children?'" says Taylor, who quickly found out about the OASIS tutoring program and went to work. That was nine years and 24 students ago.
Taylor was instrumental in getting the OASIS program started in her grandsons' schools and has recruited twelve new tutors to the program. She's more than willing to talk to groups of seniors about the impact they can have on the lives of children through volunteering.
"I feel that every child should have a mentor," she says. "I just wish more grandparents could be in the lives of their grandchildren. The majority of these children need individual attention. They just need someone willing to listen to them read."
Taylor considers her efforts in the schools and the community time well spent. In addition to working directly with her students, she coordinates the efforts of 24 other tutors and spreads the word about the priceless rewards that await older adults who are willing to share some of their time with children.
She gets hugs and smiles and cheers of victory: "I did it! I passed!" She even gets proud introductions to parents by children who are making progress.
"Not only do I get to know these children, I've had the privilege to meet every one of the parents," she says. "Thursdays are the highlight of my week. I just tell others, 'If you want to have one of the best days of your life, come help a child learn to read.'"