January Mentor of the Month

Barb Birchmier reading to her student, Natalia

Our January Mentor of the Month is Barb Birchmier. Barb is a mentor at Findley Elementary’s John Deere Financial sponsored Power Breakfast program.

Barb is an employee at John Deere Financial, which is how she originally got involved with the program three years ago.

“I think this is an opportunity that John Deere has given me to give back,” Barb said. “I read to my grandchildren and I read to my own children. But, to give back to somebody who might not have that person at home that has time to read. I really feel privileged that my company has given us the opportunity to read. It’s wonderful.”

Barb is a mentor to a third-grade student, Natalia. The pair is currently in their third year of reading one-to-one together each week and have been reading together ever since Barb started the program.

“I think that makes a big difference because when the kids come in, they’re looking for the same face or a familiar person,” Barb said. “So it’s really been more fun reading with my kids every single week rather than sharing them with someone else.”

When asked if reading on a weekly basis has helped Natalia’s reading skills, Barb answered: “Definitely.”

“When I started reading to her, she had sight words,” Barb said. “Those are words that they’re supposed to be able to memorize, and I pointed out the different words as I read them so that she could see where her sight words were. And now, she tells me what her sight words are. As she’s reading along she’s like ‘Oh, that’s right. That’s one of my sight words.’ So now she’s pointing them out to herself as she’s reading through them.”

One of Barb’s favorite parts about Everybody Wins! Iowa is that it also gives the children in the program the opportunity to add books to their at-home collections.

“One of the greatest things about this is where they get to take a book home,” Barb said. “They get excited about that. And then they take them home and they read them to their brothers and sisters. It’s well worth it.”

Barb seemed to not only be happy about the progress that Natalia has made, but was also quite enthusiastic about what she has seen out of the other kids in program as well.

“Just listen around the room,” Barb said. “Every child is attentive and they’re listening and the person is reading. It’s just a continuous giving. Look how connected they all are to their readers. There’s more things going on in here than just reading.”

Reading with a mentor not only makes a difference in a child’s reading skills, Barb said, but it can be beneficial in a number of other ways as well.

“I think the program is wonderful,” Barb said. “I think it makes a difference. And not just for the reading, the reading is extremely, extremely important, but the connection with another person. I think that’s very, very rewarding also.”

Thank you being an outstanding mentor, Barb!

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