We all know that reading is power. At the ABA Business Law Section’s Hybrid Spring Meeting in April, the Section’s Rule of Law Working Group, led by Judge Alvin Thompson and John Stout, and its Pro Bono Committee spearheaded a fun and dynamic opportunity for members of the ABA BLS to read with elementary school students. Daniela Cimo (Chair of the Pro Bono Committee) and Tsui Ng (Co-chair of the Programs Committee) organized volunteers to work with Reading Partners, which partners with schools that identify students who are six months or more behind grade level in reading. (You can read more about the inspiration behind the initiative in Cimo’s article “How Civic Education, Pro Bono, and Professional Integrity Strengthen the Rule of Law.”) Students are paired with trained volunteers who provide one-on-one tutoring twice a week for forty-five minutes during the school year, following a structured curriculum. Students receive their own book every session to build their own home library.
As part of the curriculum, students practice reading out loud. BLS volunteers first received training and selected the book for their student to read to them. These books were donated by BLS members and ranged from stories exercising political and voting rights and stories about historical figures to simply funny stories.
The hour or so we spent working with Reading Partners was extremely meaningful, and admittedly, very fun. I had the honor to read with a powerhouse second grader who just turned eight, and who bounced into the room with her hoop earring, blue necklace, tie-dye purse, and a huge smile. We laughed together as she read me a book on how kids can help people to vote and why that is important. Without question, we all left our way too fast sessions with the students with more energy and hope than when we walked through the school doors. And because we all didn’t know each other before our volunteer session, we ended with a shared experience and new BLS friends.
Given the success of the program, the Rule of Law Working Group and the Pro Bono Committee are planning for another volunteer opportunity at the Annual Meeting in Chicago. I will be the first person to sign up.
This article is part of a series on intersections between business law and the rule of law, and their importance for business lawyers, created by the American Bar Association Business Law Section’s Rule of Law Working Group. Read more articles in the series.