One To One Children’s Literacy Program volunteers Lindy Blakely (left) and Deena Laturnus chat at the recent appreciation tea for all program supporters at The Schubert Centre.

One To One Children’s Literacy Program volunteers Lindy Blakely (left) and Deena Laturnus chat at the recent appreciation tea for all program supporters at The Schubert Centre.

Making a One to One difference

Children's literacy has been getting a boost from the One to One Program for 20 years at schools throughout the Vernon School District

Happy Birthday, One To One Children’s Literacy Program.

For the past 20 years in schools throughout the district, the program has been matching trained volunteers with children who need a little extra help with reading.

“It is just fabulous to know you have helped the kids accomplish something that is going to help them for the rest of their lives. You can’t progress without reading,” said volunteer Deena Laturnus, who has been with the program since the beginning.

Debbie Schiller brought the program from Vancouver where it was sponsored by the Junior League.

“This is an exciting day for me,” she told the program volunteers and supporters at an appreciation tea at The Schubert Centre. “I started making phone calls and by October 1996 we had more than 40 volunteers. That was too many for the first two schools, Alexis Park and Harwood, so we were able to start in West Vernon as well.

“We thank the wonderful Morning Star for helping us to recruit volunteers over the years through articles and notices.”

The Kalamalka Rotary Club committed $500 for books to each school that wanted to adopt the program, and schools around the district soon had One To One programs. Classroom teachers identify students who can benefit from more practice reading aloud and the students are matched with volunteers who meet with them at the schools. Volunteers are supported by One To One staff and school learning resource teachers.

“This program is really, really good for the kids,” said Gail Pearson, retired learning resource teacher at Alexis Park School.

Sue Carder, retired learning resource teacher at Harwood School, said, “We felt very positive about the program. The key is the individual attention that is impossible in a classroom situation.”

Schiller thanked the more than 4,000 volunteers who have kept the program going over the years and those who gave their support as board members, with their expertise, and financially.

“These are the quiet heroes of literacy,” she said.

There are now One To One Children’s Literacy Programs in all elementary schools in the district. More than 200 volunteers work with more than 350 children each week. More than 6,000 children in early elementary grades have taken part in the past 20 years.

“Thank you to Debbie for bringing the program here and to the community which has made it possible. We would not have a program without you,” said Bonnie Hutton, One To One district coordinator.

Longtime volunteers shared their experiences.

“As soon as I read about the program I knew I wanted to get involved,” said Deena Laturnus, who has a background in retail but loves to work with children and is also a volunteer at NONA.

“I went to Harwood school as a child and it was interesting to go back. One To One is the perfect program for giving something very important to the kids. I have had older children come up to me in the street and tell me they remember it as special.”

Lindy Blakely, who has volunteered at Kidston school for 14 years, wanted to share her own love of reading as a child.

“The program is so simple and effective and the training was great. I love working with the kids, they are so honest and inquisitive,” she said. “What really strikes me is seeing their progress and the growth of confidence as they go through the program. I would recommend this as a volunteer opportunity for anyone who likes reading and working with children.”

While some volunteers have a background in teaching, many do not; Blakely is a retired nurse and real estate agent. The only requirements are a love of reading and working with children. One To One always needs more volunteers.

For more information, contact or phone 250-549-2216 or see


Vernon Morning Star