According to the National Center of Adult Literacy, 40 million adults in the U.S. read and write at or below the 5th-grade level. Reading is not the only obstacle—children are suffering from below average scores in both science and math. Due to a lack of involvement from parents and limited resources in the education system, children do not get the help they need to succeed in these areas. Retirement offers seniors the opportunity to invest their time volunteering at schools. While this commitment may seem overwhelming, reshaping a student’s future is a much more fulfilling way to spend retirement. Seniors can make an impact by volunteering to tutor struggling students.

How To Become A Volunteer

Each state and local school district has its own set of qualifications for volunteering. A senior may be required to fill out a disclosure application and pass a criminal background check. Once approved, the next step typically includes a volunteer orientation with the school where a representative covers schedules and school rules. The volunteer registration process will need to be repeated every six months to a year.

A designated tutoring space, whether at a public library or in a school classroom, will be determined and assignments will be made known to the volunteer. Seniors will have the opportunity to review lessons, help a student complete an assignment, or assist students with reading. The Pew Charitable Trusts conducted a study proving that increased family engagement in educational programs is linked with increases in a child’s reading achievement and other academic successes. Some students do not have stability in their home that will allow them to experience family engagement. As a consistent volunteer, seniors can be seen as the stable, encouraging, and dependable role model in a student’s life.

Various Education Approaches

Technology can be seen as a deterrent in connecting with the youth today. Many students spend their free time with bowed heads and eyes glued to phone screens. Texting all day long and posting selfies on social media does not help their test scores. However, seniors should try not to see technology as an enemy. Instead, volunteers are encouraged to take advantage of digital tools as a way to connect with today’s youth. Consider watching a video showing the metamorphosis of a tadpole into a frog or read an online article showcasing the benefits drones are having on rebuilding a community after a flood.  

If you want to pursue a hands-on approach to learning, the library is a great resource. Encourage a student to visit the school library and research information about a subject they are having trouble grasping, such as astronomy. Review books together on various temperatures and atmospheres found on each planet in the solar system. Encourage the student to check out a book and return it to the library in a timely manner, teaching and encouraging responsibility.

Benefits of Volunteering

A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer due to the selfless ambition of helping others. Working with the digital generation provides an opportunity for seniors to learn new applications and software—learning new skills can enhance memory. By volunteering and spending time talking with students, seniors will not only contribute to the betterment of a student’s life but also to their own growth in communication skills. Volunteers need not limit themselves to offering help in subjects like reading, science, and math, but can also assist with music and the arts. Whatever volunteer role a senior chooses, the main goal is to educate and engage the minds of our nation’s future leaders.

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