October Coordinator Feature

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Lois Van Houwelingen, Site Coordinator at Pella Christian Grade School

For 46 years, Lois Van Houwelingen was a reading and math instructor at Pella Christian Grade School. She finally retired in 2014; however, her retirement did not mean she was done helping students with their literacy skills.

In March of 2012, Lois was approached by the principal of Pella Christian Grade School. He asked if Lois would be interested in coordinating a new reading program at their school called Everybody Wins! Iowa during the noon hour in the library.

Lois said “Yes, sounds like a great idea!” Since then, Lois has been serving as the site coordinator for Everybody Wins! Iowa’s Power Read program at Pella Christian Grade School. The program serves first and second graders.

Karen Ligas, Everybody Wins! Iowa’s Executive Director, has high praise for Lois as a key component of the program in Pella.

“Lois volunteered to coordinate our program in 2012 before officially joining our staff in 2014,” Karen said. “She brings great skills in her role. She also brings community resources, such as recruiting volunteers to read, and is a key partner of our program.”

Upon Lois’ retirement in 2014, she decided she would continue to serve in her position as site coordinator because she understood the importance of reading aloud to children.

“After reading the books ‘The Read-Aloud Handbook’ by Jim Trelease and ‘In Defense of Read-Aloud’ by Dr. Steven L. Layne, I have learned that the impact of reading orally to children is very powerful,” Lois said.

Lois said that reading aloud is huge for kids in terms of their vocabulary development, confidence, language interpretation, and understanding story structure.

This school year, Lois has been dealing with a young boy who tends to act out and can be pretty oppositional towards adults. Lois paired the student with a woman who was more laid-back and was used to having boys in her house, and was a bit surprised by the results.

“He’s just been so good in there,” Lois said. “He even brings his own book from home. I probably wouldn’t do that with other kids, but because of the nature of who he is as a person, I just thought ‘You know, I think we’re just going to go with that.’”

His mentor said that he really enjoys his book, which is a chapter book, and all he wants to do is keep on reading it.

“I have really been blessed with working with good mentors,” Lois said. “They really want to do what’s good for children.”

Other highlights for Lois’ program are the sessions that come before winter break and spring break. During this time, she brings in her special collection of Christmas and Easter books for the students to read.

“They get so excited about selecting their favorite story book, and they often beg to have me bring the books back the next time,” Lois said. “The excitement for reading is really really great to see.”

The kids also receive a book as a gift for them to add to their at-home collections before these breaks, which gets them just as excited.

“It has been so exciting to see our little first and second graders smile with delight when they receive books at the book giveaways, or when they complete a READO sheet (which is like BINGO for books) for completing the reading of a variety of books and receive a free book to take home.”

Being a former reading teacher, it has been thoroughly fulfilling for Lois to have a role with Everybody Wins! Iowa.

“It has been a real blessing to be a small part of the Everybody Wins! Iowa organization,” Lois said.

Thank you for everything that you do, Lois!

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