Mentor Of The Month: Books, Barks and Bowling

Mentor Of The Month: Books, Barks and Bowling

Mentor Carol Plemons with her student, Elmin.

Mentor Carol Plemons with her student, Elmin.

From Student, Elmin

I have been with my tutor/mentor for one year. I enjoy spending time with Ms. Carol. We read challenging books and books I like. We also buy books at the library book sales. I like comic books, chapter books, fairy tales, animal books, and books with information. I have learned that I can read and improve my fluency.

I have done a lot of first things with Ms. Carol. We just went bowling. It was fun and I got 2 strikes. We went to D.C. and took the Metro. I went to the movies for the first time with Ms. Carol. We watched “Captain Underpants.” It was a good and funny movie. Ms. Carol also took me to my first bookstore.

Ms. Carol is amazing, because we do fun activities together. I enjoyed watching a video of “The Sneetches,” a Dr. Seuss book that we read on Ms. Carol’s iPad. Another special thing we have done is read to dogs in the Paws to Read program. I have done it three times. I enjoy going to do the Wright to Read events such as Readers take the Stage and the picnic. I also enjoyed when we painted a snowman. I painted a Snowman Joker. I enjoy talking to Ms. Carol. We talk about hair styles and dogs. All the time we talk about books.

From Tutor/Mentor, Ms. Carol

A chance encounter connected me with Wright to Read (WTR). I met a WTR volunteer in the Alexandria library one day and as we were chatting, waiting for the band to start (that’s not a misprint) she told me about the program. I’d been looking for a volunteer opportunity that focused on reading and literacy and Wright to Read sounded like a perfect fit — matching volunteers one-on-one with kids who needed to improve their reading. Even better, the program served the community. The next day I contacted WTR, went through orientation and training and a few months later I was paired with Elmin.

Elmin was eight years old when we met (he’s almost 10 now) and we’ve been together a little over a year. What impressed me most at our introductory meeting was Elmin’s enthusiasm for reading. The look of delight on his face when he received his first set of books from Wright to Read is one I won’t soon forget — I felt like I had a big head start already.

Because Elmin had never been to a public library, the first thing we did was take a tour of the largest one, Beatley Central. I explained how to find books, how to check them out, how long you could keep the books you borrowed and what happened if you didn’t return them on time (he saw me pay a couple of late fees and caught on quickly). Over the next few months, we visited every library in Alexandria so he could see the different branches. I allowed him to use my library card and in no time at all he was identifying books he wanted to read and became a master of self-checkout. “Big Nate” is a particular favorite. He has full responsibility for books in his care and has never failed to return them on time, always in good shape. Borrowing books from the library gives him lots of options for independent reading and we read his “main” book at our weekly meeting. He’s expressed interest in getting his own library card and I’m hopeful that can happen soon. We’ve also attended library book sales — Elmin loves shopping for bargains — and it’s been great seeing him choose books for his personal collection.

Over the past year we’ve participated in library programs such as Paws to Read, and attended many Wright to Read events, including a visit to the T.C. Williams Planetarium, a yoga class, scavenger hunt in Old Town, the WTR picnic and my favorite, the Kids Cook event where the students made their own grilled cheese sandwiches. We’ve also been to the movies, visited a bookstore and recently, took the Metro downtown to go bowling (he was very proud of beating me). All these activities were new experiences.

Since we’ve been together, I’ve seen Elmin become a more confident reader, increase his vocabulary and improve his ability to recall content from week to week. Because we read books that are geared to his interests, he’s even finished a couple of chapter books, which is a real milestone. I have challenged him to read more chapter books and as he completes them, we’ll celebrate with a field trip or other special activity. He also enjoyed reading aloud to other students at a recent WTR event and we hope to do more of that in the future too. When we’re not reading, he tells me silly jokes and has a knack for making me laugh — even when he isn’t trying — making each session with him special and fun.

I’m lucky to have Elmin as my mentee and look forward to continuing to share my love of books and reading with him, support him as he builds his skills, and encourage his curiosity to explore and try new things.

Wright to Read, a program of The Campagna Center, is a member of the Alexandria Mentoring Partnership (AMP). AMP was created in 2006 to ensure that quality mentors and mentor programs are available for Alexandria's youth and young adults in need. To learn more about Wright to Read, visit: or to learn more about AMP, visit: