Greetings ABQ Oasis Volunteer Reading Mentors!

Welcome to February 2021 Mentor Monday.

February has been a busy time with new recruits, returning volunteers, technology training, schools requesting more volunteers and of course, reporting on the good work our volunteers are doing with students. We continue to hear about the possibility of students returning to school with a hybrid schedule. Again, my understanding is that volunteers will be invited onto school campuses last, so at this time I anticipate our mentoring online through 2021 and possibly into spring 2022. Please continue to refer others to join our team as we are always recruiting, training and scheduling volunteers. As new support meeting dates and topics become available, I will forward that information along with either a Zoom or Google Meet link to join the session, so please check your email periodically. Thank you for taking the time to peruse this communication and always feel free to contact me if you have any questions, concerns or stories you would like to share.

My Story

July will mark my 6th anniversary with Oasis and like you, each year I volunteer and read with a student. I certainly cannot ask my volunteers to do something that I do not try myself! This month, a little of my heart is now devoted to my student this year, and I am glad to share. Each year, I get those butterflies in my stomach before the first meeting and this year was no different.
I guess the biggest difference this first time, was not walking into the school but wondering if my computer skills would be adequate to mentor online. I was right to have the butterflies, because as I read The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach, I could not see my student. Surprisingly though, I found a roundabout way to see him midway through the story by switching between the presentation screen and the meeting link. After I read, I found that my computer glitch did not make a difference, as my student seemed to really enjoy the book and had lots of input. This bright, interesting and engaged 1st grade student talked to me about a myriad of subjects – video games, fairytales, family and valentine gifts. The time flew by, I said goodbye, see you next week and my student logged off. Next, the monitor popped onto my screen and said it looked like we had fun – I had forgot the monitor was even there. What my takeaway is, being present, being interested and actively listening are the best skills that we can bring to our online mentoring -plus some preparation!

Vicki and her student

Kid Tested Session

Take a moment and enjoy the Kid Tested Session this month from Margaret W. as told to Joan March.
If you are interested in adding to our Kid Tested Session plan album, please contact me and I will forward your information to Joan March. Our album will be available in the library and a new plan will be published monthly in our Mentor Monday.

Category:  Reluctant Reader
Genre: Fiction—illustrated chapter books
Oasis Tutor:  Margaret W.
Grade: 1st

Summary:  Margaret captured the heart and imagination of a first grader who was an emotional wreck when she first met him. Her story typifies the notion of “meeting the child where he’s at” and taking off from there. . . even if it puts you, the tutor, a bit out of your comfort zone. Sammy blossomed with Margaret’s help.  Her approach, along with the materials she selected to use, could be used for your reluctant readers.

The Story: When Margaret first met Sammy, he was in tears.  In fact, Margaret learned that Sammy cried every day, both in the classroom and on the playground.  The teacher told her that Sammy and an older brother, who was in middle school, were being raised by their single father. Sammy was routinely late for school. Whether Sammy’s fragile emotional state was a case of separation anxiety or fearfulness about school in general, Margaret didn’t probe.  Instead, she got to work.

Margaret’s first mission was to find out what Sammy’s interests were in order to initially select books that would appeal to him.  Sammy was apparently stuck in the video game world with a program called ROBLOX.  That wasn’t where Margaret wanted to go. Taking the bull by the horns, Margaret brought in a series of “5-minute” books to see if any of those struck Sammy’s fancy.  Margaret wasn’t having much luck.

At one session, she noticed that Sammy had the word “poop” written in the margin of his Oasis Journal, where she and Sammy had recorded some words he was learning.  “Do you like poop?” she enquired.  Sammy, watching Margaret’s reaction very closely, said “Yes, because I know how to spell it.”

As if a lightning bolt had struck her, Margaret thought, “I’ll bring in one of the Captain Underpants books.”  (Editor’s note: The first book of this series was published in 1997 and banned by some libraries. In 2012, an article in Slate magazine summarized the appeal of these books as follows: If you do not find jokes about gas, poop, tinkle, wedgies, and barf endlessly hilarious—if you are not, in body or spirit, an 8-year-old boy—Dav Pilkey’s phenomenally successful Captain Underpants series is not for you.”) In 2017, it became a movie.)

Sammy took to Captain Underpants—the heroes as well as the villains—like a duck to water. The series is written at around a fourth grade level, so Margaret read a lot of the book to Sammy, but he understood it.  She had him use his Oasis journal to write about topics or lessons learned in the book that he liked. Within two months of Margaret’s first meeting with Sammy, he stopped crying.

In the first book of the series, Sammy was captivated by a bit of mischief unleashed by the two main characters, George and Harold.  They would take signs posted in the neighborhood and make small, but very amusing, changes.  See the two illustrations below.

screenshot of book illustration
screenshot from book illustration

Sammy made up his own fractured signs in keeping with George and Harold’s example. Spelling, and reading comprehension were made fun for Sammy in reading about the boys’ humorous antics.

Margaret has nothing but praise for the classroom teacher who would give Margaret the book she planned to read for story time that day so Margaret could review it with Sammy.  All in all, by the end of the school year, both the classroom teacher and Margaret reported on Sammy’s improvements: considerable emotional maturity, self-confidence and, of course, his reading abilities.

Margaret’s Discoveries:

  • The cartoon/comic book format, as well as the story lines, is very appealing for some kids. The series, Dog Man, about a superhero cop with the head of a dog and the body of a man, is also written by Dave Pilkey. (Apparently Pilkey has ADHD and was something of a terror in school.) Dog Man is at a little lower reading level than Captain Underpants.
  • The key is to find out what the child is interested in.
  • The tutor must be adaptable in considering where the child is.
  • It is essential to listen to the child.
  • Be open to most things—even poop.

About Margaret:

Margaret Wolford has been a reading tutor for seven years and has been with Oasis for four of those.  She is retired after spending many years as a Certified Public Accountant.  Both she and her husband, Dan, who is also retired, volunteer together at Hodgin Elementary School.  They share a space allotted for them at the school, along with some ideas. They each have their own three students that they work with three times a week.

Other Recommended Chapter Book Series by Margaret and Dan:

  • Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey: These illustrated chapter books are about human-like animals who want to to do good deeds, despite their “bad” reputations. (Recommended grades 2-5)
  • Pete the Cat by James Dean: Adventures of a cat. (Recommended for early elementary grades)
  • Disney reading series: Margaret used the one on Disney princesses. Books are short and easy, for early elementary grades.  There’s a certificate of completion of the whole set of 10 books, which appealed to some of her reluctant (girl) readers. There are additional sets of Disney books on other topics.

Interesting Upcoming Calendar Dates

  • Read Across America Day – March 2nd
  • National Grammar Day – March 4th
  • National Day of Unplugging – March 6th

Classical Music: Carmen Habanera

Volunteer Information Reporting

If you are currently volunteering on the team, please forward the following information:

  • Total Volunteer hours for January and February 2021
  • Volunteer school location – online
  • Student name and grade
  • Teacher name and email address

Library Update

  • We are back in the office on a limited basis and the Oasis library is open on Tuesdays, 9am – 1pm
  • Please call and reserve your space and time as we are limiting the number of members in the building/library.
  • Our system updates are almost complete, and we will have a library card for every current volunteer to use to check out books.
  • If you still have books from last year, please drop them off so we can complete our inventory and organization.


Opt In Image

Click the link to opt-in to update our database and so you can continue receiving our Oasis emails.
We do not share our email addresses.
Our tutoring program is predominantly funded by our Oasis classes, so we invite you to click the link to see our catalog options for Zoom classes.

Interested in volunteering this year online – next steps

  • Please contact me to update records and I will forward documentation, resources, etc.
  • Complete a confidentiality form and updated fingerprint background clearance
  • Update your browser to include Google Chrome – APS classrooms use Google format
  • Practice downloading books from ABQ/Bernco public library system or other
  • Practice on Google Meets to learn basic functions and features
  • If necessary, join a technology support group to practice your technology skills

As always, I invite you to comment below.
I thank you for supporting our students and volunteering on our team.
Stay safe, be well and happy reading!


Book Cartoon