Ruth Chobit believes in children. “I don’t believe in the word ‘can’t’” she says, laughing. “I just tell the children ‘You can do it, you can do it!’” What she believes in so passionately is that they can succeed – at reading, at school and in life.
For 15 years, until her retirement in 2010, Ruth was a member of the Boston College Read Aloud Program, a collaboration between BC and Boston Partners in Education. The program places college staff in local elementary classrooms to read aloud to the students once a week. Four staff members share a classroom, each reading one week per month. For Ruth, it was the opportunity she’d been hoping to find for a long time.
“I love children,” she told us. “I always wanted to be a teacher – that was my goal when I started at BC in 1963. As time went on and I got promoted, I stayed in the job I was in. But I always loved children, so I jumped at the opportunity [to participate in the Read Aloud].”
Ruth didn’t just read to the students, however. She would pick books with a theme, like Valentine’s Day, and come in dressed in red, distributing Valentines to every student. She brought trivia to ask them, quizzing the students to build confidence when they knew the answers, and to show them that even when they didn’t , it was the effort that mattered. Children who hardly participated when first stepped into a classroom would eagerly share answers by the end of the year. “I could see an improvement in the children from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, [including] a definite improvement in reading.”
The teachers Ruth worked with noticed the impact as well – they’ve recommended her work and loved the program. The benefits of volunteering weren’t just on the students or schools, though – Ruth found that it helped her with her own work at Boston College, improving her interactions with others and giving her a better perspective on dealing with difficult people.
Though Ruth retired from BC in 2010, she has not stopped reading to children. In fact, she has replicated the Read Aloud program in her own neighborhood, volunteering once a week at the Stonybrook School in Brewster, MA. She reads to a class of second graders and loves it! Whether in Brighton or in Brewster, Ruth feels that it’s important to recognize and encourage the students. “The younger children, they just love to learn. They enjoy everything you give to them.”