by Kyla Alleyne
I had always known that not all children have access to the same opportunities and resources. I also knew of the inequalities that exist in our society, particularly when it comes to access to education and resources. But it wasn’t until I volunteered at a Children’s Literacy Center that I truly saw the stark differences between the lives of underprivileged children and those who are more well-off. The experience shifted my perspective and made me realize that, despite their different circumstances, all children are essentially the same.
The literacy center I volunteered at was located in a low-income neighborhood, where many of these families struggled to make ends meet. Yet despite this, the children I worked with were full of energy and enthusiasm, eager to learn and explore the world around them. They reminded me of myself when I was their age, curious and full of wonder. It was inspiring to see how much they could accomplish with just a little bit of support and encouragement. When I was a kid, I was very shy and quiet and struggled with reading and writing outside of school and didn’t seek any kind of help to improve my literacy skills.
Ironically, those were my favorite classes when I was in school, yet I did nothing to improve on those skills, so I was always a little behind in more ways than one. I sometimes even felt like a hindrance to my teachers because I wasn’t understanding things at the rate that other students were. But now, my skills have grown since then, and I love to read and write all the time whether in class or at home, and I’m not afraid to ask for help when needed. I am not shy anymore. A social butterfly who seeks opportunities.
Page 15 is a non-profit organization and Children’s Literacy Center which provides kids in Paramore with help in improving their reading, and writing skills. They have a variety of things that kids can do from after-school programs, summer camps, and creative writing contests. Some of their long-term goals are advancing literacy among the kids, growing their confidence, managing emotions and building resiliency and empathy which helps them connect with the community.
As I worked with them, I began to see that their circumstances did not define them. It was heartbreaking to think that these bright, curious children might not have the same opportunities as their fellow peers simply because of where they were born. But at the same time, I was inspired by the literacy center and the people who worked there. They were dedicated to giving these children the resources and support they needed to succeed, despite the challenges they faced. It was a humbling experience to see firsthand the impact that a little bit of help and encouragement could have on these children’s lives.
Through the literacy center, the children had access to books, learning materials, and volunteers like myself who could help them with their homework, reading, and writing skills. They had daily prompts to write about, or they were encouraged to come up with their own stories. It was heartwarming to see how excited they were to come to the center every day and learn something new. And the progress they made was remarkable – I saw some of them go from struggling with basic reading comprehension and writing to reading fluently and writing stories in just a few months. Some of them even shared their stories, and you couldn’t even tell that they may have struggled with their literacy skills previously.
As I spent more time volunteering at the center, I began to see the children not as underprivileged, but as individuals with their own stories and struggles. I learned about their families, their hobbies, and their dreams for the future. And I realized that, despite the challenges they faced, they were just like any other child, with the same potential for success and happiness. This experience has stuck with me and has led me to seek out other opportunities to help underprivileged children. I’ve come to see that there are so many organizations out there doing important work to level the playing field for all children. From literacy centers to after-school programs to mentorship programs, these organizations are making a real difference.
This is why organizations like the literacy center are so important. They are helping them break the cycle of poverty and inequality that can trap families and communities for many generations. Of course, there is still much work to be done. The inequalities that exist in our society are deep-rooted and complex, and they won’t be solved overnight. But by volunteering and supporting organizations that help underprivileged children, we can all do our part to create a more equitable and just society.
Volunteering at a children’s literacy center shifted my perspective on the differences between underprivileged children and those who are more well-off. It made me realize that all children are essentially the same, with their own unique personalities and potential. And it showed me that there are organizations out there doing important work to help level the playing field for all children. By supporting these organizations and volunteering our time, we can make a real difference in the lives of children and help build a better future for all.