Program that helps children read needs volunteers in east Coachella Valley schools

A Read With Me volunteer with a student.
A Read With Me volunteer with a student.

Read With Me, a nonprofit program that aims to help children develop their full potential to read in English, says it's having a hard time finding volunteers in the eastern Coachella Valley, likely because of transportation challenges.

The program is hoping to find people to read with students at Sea View Elementary in Salton City, Oasis Elementary in Thermal and Mountain Vista Elementary in Indio.

Since 2004, volunteers have been helping elementary school students in the valley become good readers through Read With Me. It works by having the children handle the reading while the volunteer helps with pronunciation and comprehension by asking questions. Reading time can be one-on-one or in a group setting, depending on what the teacher advises, according to Roberta Klein, president and founder of the program.

"At Read With Me, we recruit, register, train and assign volunteers for a specific school and a specific classroom. They have one boss and the boss is the teacher," Klein said. The teacher pairs students with volunteers and assigns the reading material.

Currently, volunteers are in high demand in the eastern Coachella Valley as schools there may be a little harder to get to than others in the region, Klein said. To remedy that, Read With Me provides bus transportation from the La Quinta Costco parking lot to volunteer in Thermal and is working on other transportation services out of Indio.

"The logical thing is to recruit people from La Quinta, Indio, Coachella and Thermal to go out there," she said, though volunteers from across the valley are welcome.

Klein said Oasis Elementary has the most need for volunteers, but ultimately Read With Me is looking for 75 new readers to join.

She explained that the program is still recovering from the impact of COVID-related shutdowns at schools. Whereas prior to the pandemic Read With Me had 700 volunteers in 12 valley schools, the program currently has 464 volunteers in 17 schools, according to Klein.

She added that the ongoing shortage of teachers in the country has made it difficult to coordinate efforts with schools to place volunteers. "It's just dreadful. The teachers are so overwhelmed that many of them could not even think about helping a volunteer, so we only work with schools where the principal and the teachers say, 'We need you.'"

Because volunteers must be free during school hours, Read With Me has turned into an ideal volunteering opportunity for retirees, she said. However, it's open to anyone who also has the following qualifications:

  • Is fluent in English

  • Has a driver's license to process a background check

  • Registers with Read With Me and the school district

  • Provides vaccination records

And naturally, Read With Me is looking for people who enjoy working with children.

"Our objective is not just to help children learn to read, but to learn to love to read. ... And we want to convey to children this is a lifelong skill that will help you thrive throughout your life," Klein said.

For more information about Read With Me and volunteering, email Klein at or visit

Eliana Perez covers the eastern Coachella Valley. Reach her at or on Twitter @ElianaPress.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Nonprofit to help children read short on east Coachella Valley volunteers