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Volunteers needed for local SMART programs

The Rogue Valley chapter of SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) is looking for about 100 volunteers to spend an hour each week reading to and with pre-kindergarten through third-grade students.

The SMART program, which runs mid-October through mid-May, aims to serve 1,300 students this year at about 36 locations — including public elementary schools and Head Start programs — in Jackson and Josephine counties.

“It’s not so much about teaching kids how to read,” said Julie Brimble, the area program manager. “It’s about getting them enthusiastic and interested in books.”

Volunteers, she said, spend an hour each week reading with two children — 30 minutes each — and get to pick the site that’s most convenient for them.

“It’s the same day each week, the same time, the same school and the same two children for the whole year,” Brimble said.

Students are selected by their teachers to participate in the program as volunteers become available. Literature is provided and includes classics, nonfiction and picture books.

A current nonfiction favorite is “Who Would Win? Polar Bear vs. Grizzly Bear,” Brimble said.

To volunteer or get more information, call the local SMART office at 541-734-5628 or see www.getSMARToregon.org. All volunteers must pass criminal background checks.

“We just want people who love books and like children,” Brimble said. “We’ll train them and give them some reading strategies and then let them go.”

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.