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For volunteers, reading is elementary

Members of St. Anthony Hall, Brown's co-ed literary fraternity, started a children's writing workshop at the Fox Point Community Library earlier this week. The Fox Point Reading Club is an "informal participatory program to get kids actively involved in reading and writing," said Alexander Wankel '11, St. Anthony's community service chair and founder of the club.

Wankel originally had the idea for such a club earlier this semester.

"I've been trying to get this program started as an outreach to the surrounding community," he said. At St. Anthony, "we have such great human resources of people who like reading and writing, so the program seemed like the perfect idea."

Wankel's main goals for the program are "to create a relationship with the community and library and to help teach a few kids an appreciation for reading and writing," he said.

Wankel and three other members of the fraternity have already committed to coming to the library three times a week, but he explained that any fraternity member can work for a day.
The program started Monday and will hold sessions three days a week until the end of the semester, Wankel said. While the program is only planned until finals period, Wankel said he envisions it might continue into the next semester.

The Fox Point Library has gladly welcomed and appreciated community outreach efforts from the Brown community, Ann Schattle, the library's children's specialist, said. "We always welcome any sort of help from students, especially for after-school programs like this one," she said.

Providence Community Library, which recently took over control of Fox Point and the eight other branches from Providence Public Library, has aimed to increase community programming at its libraries. Other branches host such events as a chess club and a video and computer game club.

Schattle and Wankel worked together to promote and advertise the program to surrounding schools and teachers. Schattle met with teachers from the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School to discuss the program and handed out flyers to families in the neighborhood.

The club's first meeting "went really well," Wankel said. "We had a small group of five kids. We had them play a game and read to them. It was pretty fun." Wankel said that he plans on reading stories to the children each meeting and then having a discussion about the story, followed by a creative drawing or writing exercise based on that day's reading.

The overall structure of the program is designed to foster the children's creativity, Schattle said. "In school, kids don't have exposure to creative writing. They do a lot of standardized testing and guided writing, but they don't have a creative outlet," she said.

The club is currently the only community outreach program of its kind at the Fox Point Library, Schattle said. However, this is not the first time that Brown students have gotten involved in volunteering at the library. "We've had Brown students volunteer before, doing things like tutoring," Schattle said. "We've had work-studies from Brown volunteer here before."

Children at Wednesday's meeting enjoyed the program and planned on coming to more sessions. "I thought it was fun," said Nick, a ten-year-old fourth grader from the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, which is located across the street from the library. "I think it's good that they are taking the time to read to us," he said.

"I usually come here after school and go on the computer or do my homework," said Emani, a nine-year-old fourth grader from the same school. "It was cool that they were reading to me. I think I'll come back again," she said.

Schattle and Wankel both said they hope more students will hear about the program and come to their sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. "Hopefully as kids participate and tell their friends, the program will grow. That's what we would like to see happen," Schattle said.


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