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Holmes-School-Dorchester-MaA new employee goes to the Oliver Wendell Holmes School in Dorchester with the team I’m on. He can’t get over how great it is to work for an organization that gives you time to do this. We go out once a month from January to June, and other teams go once a month so that we cover every week.

I started eight years ago with the team that read picture books to a room of first graders. Then I read for a few years with fifth or fourth graders who received chapter books from the librarian. These were students whose teachers thought they would appreciate the extra reading. We all read aloud, with the adult volunteers only taking a turn if the story seemed to lag.

Holmes is a minority-majority urban school with many dedicated teachers who are tolerant of the extra work it takes to herd volunteers. (We also have volunteers who work on math.)

This year, the team I’m on includes the woman who started the whole relationship with Holmes 20 years ago and is now retired. We are assigned to read copies of printed passages and help the children answer multiple-choice questions from tests they have had in the past.

Given the current nationwide emphasis on testing and these third graders’ tendency to keep guessing wildly, I consider it my role to focus on the thought process and deemphasize getting the right answer. I ask, Why do you think that’s the answer? How did you get there?

The administrators often tell us that we make a difference. We’re probably just a drop in the bucket. But, you know, One and One and 50 Make a Million.

More employers should make it so easy to improve the world in which they operate. Other employees probably spend the hour and a half it takes to go out, tutor, and get back once a month in less valuable ways.

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