The gift of reading | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | July 28, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: July 26, 2017 at 1:42 pm
Library volunteers donate their skills to help children learn
Rudolph Manigo, tutor
Every couple of months, Rudolph Manigo comes back to Colleton County to spend time with his father, Paul Manigo. He usually stays 2-3 months, so during the summer, the retired teacher decided to volunteer some time as a tutor during the Colleton County Memorial Library’s Summer Reading Program.
A resident of New Carrolltown, Md., Manigo taught second grade in the Montgomery County public schools for 11 years, retiring in 2011. He also served 24 years in the Air Force. “I came home one summer about four years ago and they were talking about needing tutors. I just volunteered and have been there ever since,” he said.
He only had two students this year, way down from usual. But they are making progress in their reading, he said.
As far as intelligence and ability to learn, he’s found Colleton County’s students no different from his students in Maryland. But there’s a big difference in what they are exposed to — in how parents understand the importance of starting their child’s education early and taking education seriously at an early level. “You don’t realize how big a head start a child has just by being exposed to books,” Manigo said.
Part of that problem is the difference in the socio-economic status of families in the two areas. “If you don’t have disposable income to buy books, coloring books and crayons, if you don’t see your parents sitting down reading newspapers and books, you don’t have that example,” he said. “If people could just realize how important it is to teach kids before they come to school … Parents should be role models.”
The majority of children go through school and graduate without difficulty. “But we always have to look out for that bottom tier to bring them up to speed,” he said. “If we don’t put the resources into them now, we end up having to later because they can’t get jobs and end up getting in trouble.”
Times have changed. Manigo graduated from Colleton High School in 1970, and “the whole time I was there, there was never a stabbing or a shooting at that school. We had some fights, but no one ever got stabbed or even hurt enough to have to go to the doctor.”
This summer, he witnessed a fight between two children at the library and “they were trying to hurt each other,” he said.
That’s one reason he continues his tutoring — not only to help improve educational skills, but to provide a positive role model.
Jacquelyn Colleton-Akins, tutor
Jacquelyn Colleton-Akins has loved her summer tutoring at the Colleton County Memorial Library. “This has been one of my best summers, here in Walterboro.”
A veteran educator, Akins has taught literally all over the country in her 24 years as a teacher and, after retirement, as a tutor. But she was reluctant to volunteer for the library’s Summer Reading Program because “I thought, they don’t need my help. But I was praying and God said, ‘Go give them part of you.’ And here I am.”
Since June, she has helped six students from pre-K through fifth grade improve their skills in science, language arts, math, reading and Spanish. Her schedule is from 12:30-3 p.m. Monday-Thursday and she makes sure each student has a dedicated 45 minutes. “Each one of my students is on a different level, so I make sure each one is taught what will be taught in school when they return, whether it’s pre-K, kindergarten or fifth grade,” she said.
“It’s a lot of work, a lot of planning — but it’s exciting planning,” she said. One student, a third-grader, has shown great improvement over the summer. The student has problems with long- and short-term memory, and at first, would forget how to spell his name. Now, just six weeks later, he can spell his name without difficulty, she said.
She’s obviously very proud of him, as well as the many other students she’s tutored up and down the East Coast over the years. She strives to keep in touch and feels she has made a difference in both her students’ lives and the communities where she taught. “When I go back to these communities, I can see great improvements. And I can see what I taught on those particular summers still instilled in the students,” she said.
“I present myself in the way my instructors taught me: Give yourself in an educated manner, in a joyful manner, and your students will always remember the good things as well as the bad,” she said. “I have students call me and tell me what they are doing — one is a doctor now.”
For that reason, she plans to continue helping students in Colleton County after the Summer Reading Program ends. “I also work for Jesus Christ and in my work for Jesus, I need to go and give myself not only to the school system, but to the poor in the community.”
The author of four books, she spends a fair amount of her time traveling and giving speeches. But her spare time will be spent helping students bring their education up to speed.
To arrange tutoring, call Akins at 904-521-3805 or leave a message for her at the library, 843-549-5621.
Alaysia Stephens, volunteer
Twelve-year-old Alaysia Stephens has been coming to the Colleton County Memorial Library as long as she can remember. She participated in the Summer Reading Program for years, but this year was her first time as a volunteer instead of a participant.
And she’s loved helping the children. Dealing with the kids is “kind of fun because they like to start conversations and it’s kind of interesting. They’ll be like ‘Can you help me find this book?’ And when I do, they say, ‘Look at the pictures.’ And I’ll sit there and we’ll get into a conversation,” she said. For instance, one three-year-old wanted a book about dragons. After finding him a book, Stephens sat with him and looked at the pictures and just started talking to him.
She has found it easy to talk to kids of all ages, even those older than she is. In addition to the programs, she’s helped with copying, scanning, typing, ticket drives and stacking and shelving books. “It’s fun,” she said.
Like fellow volunteer Michael Williams, Stephens volunteered partly because her mother thought it was a good idea. But “the other part was I really love the library and I really like to read.”
And that’s the biggest thing she’s seen Summer Reading Program participants take away from their time at the many programs offered this summer. “They’ve learned that reading is fun.”
Michael Williams, volunteer
Michael Williams wasn’t too enthusiastic when his mother suggested volunteering at the Summer Reading Program this year. But it’s turned out to be a lot more fun than he thought.
“At the beginning, you might think it’s boring,” the 13-year-old said. “But at the end, it gets real fun, helping kids, to see the smiles on their faces. It’s pretty good.”
This was Williams’ first year with the program, which runs Monday-Thursday for 5-6 hours a day. He’s helped with the many programs offered, assisted in cleaning up, filing books and “making the kids laugh.”
In his spare time this summer, Williams attended a “cash camp” at Colleton Middle School to learn how to save money and eat healthy. He’s also enjoyed spending the weekends with his family: mom, Carolyn Mack, and dad, Michael Williams.
But his volunteer position at the library has been the biggest part of his summer vacation. “I didn’t want to do it. My mom wanted me to do it — she told me it was going to be good, so I just said OK. She was right,” he said.