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Volunteers help students with reading, comprehension skills

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Even after retiring from teaching, Mary Fran Donohoe still helps children with reading.

Donohoe is a volunteer with Reading Pals, an organization affiliated with the United Way, that helps students improve with reading and comprehension skills.

Every week for an hour, Donohoe meets with Andarion Jones, a student Myra Terwilliger Elementary School off Northwest 62nd Street, and reads alongside him.

“The second time I came he had this big smile on his,” Donohoe said. “It was like, ‘Oh, she’s coming back.’ So that made a real difference.”

With a grant funded by Carol and Barney Barnett, the United Way of North Central Florida had enough money to launch the reading program this year.

Reading Pal volunteers meet with the same child for at last 25 hours throughout the school year.

“It’s the time as well as the attention that makes the difference with the child with that on consistent adult,” said Debbie Mason, chief executive officer of United Way of North Central Florida. “So one of the beauties of this program is to have that same adult week after week.”

Alachua County schools select children to participate in the program based on their reading assistance needs.

“He (Jones) has difficulty reading the words, so we take the words … work with the words, but his comprehension is very good,” Donohoe said.

Students like Jones will get one new book every month and after they’ve mastered it, they get to take it home to share with family and friends.

The program will continue to run during the summer, and volunteers are always welcome.

Chris Alcantara edited this story online.

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