Many elementary students struggle when it comes to reading skills and comprehension. To help address this problem, Sarasota resident Ruthie Maass, a longtime kindergarten teacher who retired more than 15 years ago, began volunteering as a reading tutor.

After some time, she realized that while some schools had a plethora of volunteers, others were lacking. As a result, she began “Rockin’ Readers,” a reading program at Emma E. Booker Elementary (Booker Elementary) that pairs an adult volunteer with a small number of students ranging from kindergarten to second grade. Volunteers work with these students throughout the school year on an individual basis — building vocabulary, comprehension, and creating a positive experience when it comes to reading. The program consists of more than 120 volunteers, including Plymouth Harbor residents Barbara Bock, Celia Catlett, and the late Fran Rehl.

Celia Catlett began working as a volunteer three years ago at Fran Rehl’s suggestion. “I’ve always loved working with children, and before I became involved with Rockin’ Readers, I worked with a local literacy program,” she says. On a weekly basis, Celia works with two students at Booker Elementary. “People there are tremendously enthusiastic,” she adds. “Not only is it a lot of fun, you universally hear stories of how the children’s eyes light up.”

Barbara Bock also began her involvement at the suggestion of Fran Rehl. Seven years later, she feels just as passionate about the program as the day she started. “I was originally drawn to the program because I am a retired teacher, having taught first, second, and third grade,” Barbara says. “And I also really enjoy working with the children.” Barbara uses her talents as a former teacher to help tutor first grade students once each week at Booker Elementary.

It comes as no surprise that Fran Rehl’s number one passion before her passing (outside of her own family) was working with students at Booker Elementary. In fact, she was so passionate about tutoring that she worked with the Plymouth Harbor Foundation to ensure that her memorial gifts would be applied to a reading program that somehow benefited the families of Plymouth Harbor
employees. The Foundation is currently in the process of identifying the need and establishing a program that will fulfill Fran’s generous wish.

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about Rockin’ Readers, contact your neighbors Celia Catlett or Barbara Bock.