October Mentor of the Month

Michael Diver reads to one of his students at Capitol View Elementary

This school year marks the 15th straight year that Michael Diver has read aloud to a child in the Everybody Wins! Iowa program. He also previously served on the organization’s Board of Directors for six years.

“Michael has provided leadership seeking mentors and financial resources, and also increasing our program capacity and collaborations,” Karen Ligas, Executive Director for Everybody Wins! Iowa, said. “We are so grateful for his ongoing service!”

Up until this school year, Michael always read at Capitol View Elementary School. Now Michael is reading at Willard Elementary, a new program closer to his home, with a second grader named Luis.

“We are off to a swell start,” Michael said. “I think we’re going to have a great year together.”

Over his 15 years, you could guess correctly that Michael has read with many different students.

Michael and his very first reading partner, Raul, were paired together for three straight years. Recently, Raul graduated from high school.

“I took a graduation card to a vice principal at the school and asked her to give it to him,” Michael said. “I wrote Raul a letter telling him how much I had enjoyed our years reading together, how proud I was of him for getting his degree, and wished him the best.”

The vice principal later emailed Michael and said Raul was floored to receive the card, and that he definitely remembered Michael. Raul even said that Michael was the one that first made him excited about reading.

“It was the most fulfilling thing I have ever heard in my time at Everybody Wins,” Michael said. “If we can make kids excited about reading, we are changing the world.”

One thing about Michael is that when he reads aloud, he does so in a very expressive way to make it more fun and interesting for the kids.

“If a book is silly, I’ll sometimes do silly voices when characters are speaking,” Michael said. “I try to give each character his own identity. Helping to convey the meaning of a book with your own expressiveness is worthwhile. It helps to bring the book alive.”

A student once complimented Michael on his use of expression, saying to him that “it sounds like a movie when you read.”

“A lot of young people have spent many, many hours watching TV and playing video games,” Michael said. “It’s good for them to discover how exciting books are too. In many ways, books are much better!”

A big part of this mentoring program for Michael is showing up every week and demonstrating to a child that you care enough to be there for them for months on end.

“I try to ask how school is going,” Michael said. “If we’ve talked about their families, and we always do, I ask about brothers or sisters and usually end up with some feel for their home life. You just have to build a trust with one another, and that can take time.”

Michael said that he is confident that the kids he reads with benefit from their time they spend together each week.

“Their reading skills improve, their interest in reading goes up greatly,” Michael said. “Even their range of experience, by interacting weekly with an adult, is expanded. Their confidence grows.”

Thank you, Michael, for making a difference in the lives of many!

October Coordinator Feature

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!

Power Reading Promo Month

Everybody Wins! Iowa will be celebrating our 7th annual Power Reading Month beginning on October 16 until November 16, 2017. Throughout the month, we will be celebrating at each of the 72 individual programs in Central Iowa (Ankeny, Des Moines, Indianola, Norwalk, Pella, Perry, and West Des Moines). During this time, we will be providing new books to our students, highlighting the importance of our Power Reading programs, promoting the power of literacy and mentoring, and thanking school sponsors and volunteers for their outstanding work throughout the past year.

Last program year, we served more than 744 students in 36 Des Moines area schools and community organizations. 85 % of EWI students improved or maintained their literacy skills; our reading pairs read over 13,877 books and 482,209 pages, and volunteer reading mentors contributed over 9,608 hours to our cause.

Currently, we are serving almost 500 Central Iowa students, but we are looking to grow that number even further, as we have the capacity to serve over 800 students this school year. Our programs have expanded to include before-school, after-school, lunch-time, and summer programs, so we have times available to fit nearly anyone’s busy schedule.

Pictured: An EWI student with his mentor at Findley Elementary

Here are the programs where we currently have the highest need:

King Elementary
1849 Forest Avenue, Des Moines
Friday 11:15-11:45 (2nd grade)
Friday 11:35-12:05 (1st grade)

River Woods Elementary
2929 SE 22nd Street, Des Moines
Wednesday 11:50-12:25 (1st grade)
Thursday 11:35-12:10 (3rd grade)

Findley Elementary
3000 Cambridge Street, Des Moines
Tuesday 8:00-8:35 (3rd-5th grade)

Lovejoy Elementary
801 E Kenyon Avenue, Des Moines
Thursday 7:45-8:20 (1st-5th grade)

If you’re not a reading mentor with us and would like to be, apply today at http://bit.ly/2hTvkAz or contact Anna, Volunteer Outreach Manager, at volunteer@everybodywinsiowa.org or by calling 515-242-8462.

If you’re interested in helping, but don’t have the time to read with a student each week, we have also have a number of other ways that you can help support Everybody Wins! Iowa:

  • Sponsor a student: For only 83 cents a day, you can sponsor a full program year of reading and mentoring for a child. Through a $25 recurring monthly gift, you can make a huge impact on a child’s life. As a privately-funded non-profit organization, we rely solely on the financial support we receive from our community to fund our programs. Learn more about becoming a monthly donor here: http://bit.ly/2wKI2cr
  • Choose Everybody Wins! Iowa in your employee giving campaigns or volunteer match
  • Support Everybody Wins! Iowa by using AmazonSmile each time you shop on Amazon.com. Sign up here: http://amzn.to/2ywiIGk
  • Follow us on social media for the latest news and updates (links can be found at the bottom of this page)
  • Share this message with a friend or family member who may be interested in becoming a mentor with Everybody Wins! Iowa

Thank you supporting our Power Read program. As a volunteer-driven organization, we could not have such a large impact on the lives of children throughout Central Iowa without your continued support and dedication.


2017 Governor’s Volunteer Award Ceremony

This year’s Governor’s Volunteer Award Ceremony was held on September 25 at Southeast Polk High School, where several of our reading mentors and one of our AmeriCorps members were chosen to receive the award. While not everyone was able to make it out to the ceremony, we would like to take the time to recognize these outstanding volunteers:

Ann Laughlin
Anu Vaitheswaran
Ben Johns
Brian Brozak
Cooper Hubbell
Eric Kisgen
Janet Short
Jennifer Stuber
Jim Behrens
Jordan Mains
Linda Newsom
Paula Kerman
Rhonda Snyder

We want to thank all of you for time you’ve dedicated to our program. Your service has made a tremendous impact on the lives of elementary students in Central Iowa. Congratulations!

From left to right: Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, EWI Mentor Anu Vaitheswaran, Gov. Kim Reynolds
From left to right: Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, EWI Mentor Cooper Hubbell, Gov. Kim Reynolds
From left to right: Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg, IDPH AmeriCorps Mentoring Advocate Jordan Mains, Gov. Kim Reynolds