7 Who Care Honoree 2012: Ruthie Maass

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There are few things more gratifying as hearing a child read, and thanks to the efforts of Ruthie Maass and her army of volunteers every kindergarten student at Emma E. Booker Elementary is experiencing the joy of reading.

On any day of the week during the school year you will find students and volunteers sitting together and sharing a book.

One generation passing the love of reading to another. That's why Booker Elementary Principal Dawn Clayton says the school's library is her favorite place to be on campus. “The library is a place where children work with adults like Ruthie Maass and other adults, and they develop a lifelong love of learning, a lifelong love or reading, and it wouldn't happen in any other way, except for the amazing commitment that these volunteers have shown."

Ruthie Maass spent her career as a teacher, and after retiring didn't want to lose that connection to children and learning, so she became a school volunteer, which ultimately led to her creating and leading the "Rockin' Reader" program at Booker Elementary. "I had a goal and the goal was that every kindergarten student would have a 1 on 1."

That goal was met and exceeded. She's now very close to providing that same opportunity to every first and second grader as well.

Tanice Knopp coordinates the school district's volunteer program. "It's all because Ruthie was here to do it and she had the administrative support and the teacher support. It could be replicated at other schools. We're hoping that other schools might get to that point someday."

The ever humble Maass is quick to credit her volunteers, more than 120 of them. She says they get as much or more out of the experience than the students they're helping. "The volunteers stop me all the time to say thank you and the students light up when their volunteers come. The teachers pass you in the hall and say thank you. Our kids can't wait for their volunteers to come, so when you're in that bubble and synergy of this collaboration it just fuels itself and we all feel grateful," says Maass.

Maass keeps photos of all of her volunteers and their reading partners documenting the success and smiles the Rockin' Readers program has generated over the past eight years. She keeps one picture close by and the heartfelt letter that goes with it.

A note of thanks from a kindergarten student to her reading volunteer reads: "My favorite thing is when you help me with the words I don't know...but mostly, I like the way you put your lip gloss on, and I love the way you do your eyelashes on…and you smell like roses and I love you Rockin' Reader...and you can see why I keep this and read it on rainy days."

She's very humble and gives all the credit to her volunteers.