*I saw this article while surfing the web one afternoon.
*The story was fascinating to me. I found it to be a great idea.
*It would be a true wonder if all school districts could do this.
**Elissa Abamba, a fifth-grader at Elrod Elementary, follows along with volunteer Rick Iler as he reads from the book, "The Dreamer."
Schools eager for men to read to kids
By Tom Behrens | January 7, 2014 (This article came from the Houston Chrone Online)
Men from varied backgrounds and ages volunteer one hour a month to do something that at first took them out of their comfort zone - entertaining a roomful of youngsters at Elrod Elementary School by reading books aloud.
Part of a program called "Real Men Read," the eight men are among 300 who read to kids in the second, fifth and seventh grades in selected schools in Houston Independent School District.
David Zugheri, 43, is married with two children, but he didn't know what was in store when he read "My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood" by Rosemary Wells, Secundino Fernandez and Peter Ferguson to 35 Elrod fifth-graders. He read for about 30 minutes.
"Quite honestly that was the longest stretch of reading out loud that I had done in years," said Zugheri, who works for Envoy Mortgage.
"The children were fascinated by the story. I didn't think they would be, this being my first time doing this."
"My book was about a child that had come to America," Zugheri said.
"I think that (story) resonated very well with some of the children in the class that had done the same."
Zugheri's parents had immigrated from Italy.
"There is something about reading to children out loud that is powerful, being able to keep a 10-, 11-year-olds' attention," he said.
Having men read can make a difference, Elrod Principal Linda Bellard said.
"Most of the time our volunteers are women," said Bellard, whose school is at 6230 Dumfries.
"I was involved at my previous school with Real Men Read," Bellard said.
"It really motivated our children and helped them to understand the importance of reading. Having a man come in and read just took it to another level for them, especially our boys."
The men come to participating schools the third Thursday of each month, beginning in November and continuing through the school year, except for March and April, which are testing months for HISD.
"Currently we have 44 schools involved, affecting over 9,000 students," said Liz Philippi, HISD's manager of library services.
Book titles are selected from Scholastic by HISD, and the books are kept by the schools' libraries after the reading sessions.
For more information about the program, contact Philippi at 713-556-6149.