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Rockin’ Readers: National Program Birthed Right in our Backyard

By Lauren Johnson

It started as a challenge

The challenge was present and Linda Minor was ready to accept. After attending a seminar as an elementary school councilor at Fairview Elementary, she was ready to change her world in a way that brings peace to others . Minor remembered her grandmother sitting in a rocking chair reading to her, and how it changed her life. And so, Rockin’ Readers was born.

From the porch to the nation

The program got its start when Linda Minor, a school counselor at Fairview Elementary school in Sylva, North Carolina, purchased two double rocking chairs from Cracker Barrel and persuaded friends and neighbors to visit Fairview and read with children. Within a few months, the number of volunteers quickly grew and acquired the very fitting name “Rockin’ Reader." After sharing ideas and photos with Cracker Barrel’s corporate office, Linda and the company paired up to share the idea with other schools and develop a national program.

Rockin’ Readers

Rockin’ Reader is a national literacy initiative now sponsored by Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. The program focuses on building literacy in communities by providing a caring and comfortable environment where volunteers can read with children. In the first year of the program, the volunteers at partner schools contributed 16,400 hours of reading time with children. The national program is now in its second year and has formed 225 partnerships with elementary schools in 29 states.

Make the program happen

Minor has since retired, but her program continues to flourish. Pam Cabe, who is the current director of the program at Fairview, says she has very big shoes to fill, but also is rising to meet the challenge. “Linda Minor set a really big bar with this program and it all just came from a thought in her mind,” Cabe says.

Rockin’ Readers works with at least 25 to 30 student volunteers, and these students partner up with children from first grade to fourth grade and some fifth and sixth graders to read books and encourage literacy.

Students can choose from a variety of books and sit in the rockers to read with their volunteers. Cracker Barrel actually provides a grant to the schools that want to start the program to allow them to buy books. They also give the schools with a double rocking chair and a barrel bookshelf to house the books.

Time to help

Volunteers can come during school hours, and times are available after school as well.  Volunteers consist of college students from Western Carolina University, parents, adults in the community and grandparents.

More than meets the eye

Pam Cabe says that the volunteers act like big brothers and big sisters to the students they read with each week. “The biggest thing that we see is the relationships that these kids create with other adults,” she says. “The goal is not necessarily academic improvement, but establishing a relationship with an adult as a positive role model.”

Get involved

To get involved with Rockin’ Readers, email Pam Cabe at Fairview Elementary a week ahead of time at pcabe@jcpsmail.org. Check out Rockin’ Reader online at www.rockinreader.org.

These profiles were created by the students in Mary Adams's English 303 (spring 2010) class