11/07/11 — Volunteer opens doors to magic of reading, books

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Volunteer opens doors to magic of reading, books

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 7, 2011 1:46 PM

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Allison Carter

Sue Potter, left, hands Tyamyree Worthington the books she wanted to check out at the Boys & Girls Club. Mrs. Potter helps children at the Boys and Girls Club with their homework and reading.

Her passion for the classroom began in science. But now, retired chemistry and physics teacher Sue Potter's mission is simple: To make sure children at the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne County experiment with the magic of reading.

And after nearly a decade of volunteering, Mrs. Potter's efforts have been noticed -- with a state award honoring her determination to put books in children's hands and to be there to encourage them to improve their reading skills.

Mrs. Potter's work started on a hunch.

"I'm retired and I wanted to do something and was tutoring a few individuals at the high school in math and science," she said. "They didn't really need me there.

"I was coming down Royall Avenue one day and stopped behind this school bus. It was like one of those Volkswagens at the circus -- the children just piled out and piled out, and went to the Boys & Girls Club. I said, I bet those students could use some help."

Her efforts began by pitching in to help students do homework, but grew into collecting books and giving them to the children.

Marc Best, a member of her church, was very supportive, she said, helping her obtain a grant for multiple copies of books to distribute. Others have also assisted in transforming the program into a thriving success.

"If it wasn't for the network that she has personally developed through her advocacy of the club, there would not be nearly as many books available for the kids to read or receive," said Jo Heidenreich, development director. "She asks for the books, picks them up, sorts and organizes them and expects nothing in return.

"Because she has been a staple and inspiration for club members, a plaque was made during renovations completed last fall that named her room 'Mrs. Potter's Library.' Her in-kind contribution of volunteer hours and talents and public advocacy to collect reading materials have been an invaluable asset to our club and club kids."

Mrs. Potter typically volunteers three afternoons a week, working one-on-one with up to 90 members between the ages of 6 and 14, helping them learn words and improve their reading levels. Officials at the club say she tracks student report cards throughout the year and rewards the youths with books she has collected, but doesn't limit her efforts there.

"She also collects and shares books with club members who do not need the one-on-one time, but express an interest in and/or a love of reading," Mrs. Heidenreich said. "She has a way with the kids and sees things in them that others do not see. They love her!

"During the 2010-2011 academic year, Mrs. Potter touched 198 club members who read 2,850 books, an average of 14 books per student. She provides the support, resources and guidance necessary to help ensure that our kids are proficient in reading while also helping narrow the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged kids."

For Mrs. Potter, though, it all comes from her love for the children.

"It's more fun than anything," she said. "The children are so eager and bright and fun and they just love coming in and picking out their own books. They love sitting down and reading them with us. ... They're just such wonderful children."

She received an unexpected surprise recently, when she was invited to attend the annual meeting of the N.C. Area Council of Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Raleigh. Awards for board members and volunteers were presented, with Mrs. Potter presented with the CARE, Children Are Reason for Excellence, award.

"I was very touched," she said.

But, she added, there is enough work for everyone to share in, and encourages others to volunteer.

"I think if we could have something here in Goldsboro that would get one adult for each child, to mentor, to read, just to talk, we could turn this town around," she said. "There are so many people who are trying to do this and yet we're not getting it done completely."