Certified educators read aloud rich children's literature to children in crisis.
Empower the child (when applicable) with choice of text within their age and grade level.
When appropriate, the child may share in the literacy event.
Model fluent, expressive reading for both child and parent(s).
Incorporate cognitive strategies.
Model reading for pleasure.
Provide a moment of escapism from challenging circumstances.
Gift the book to the child to replicate the literary experience over and over again.
Background by Founder
My name is Vonda Dahl and I am a reading teacher in Mandan, North Dakota. I cannot pinpoint the moment when the idea for Project Armchair first popped into my brain. I do know that a few weeks into the 2015 school year, I became aware that a homeless shelter for families was just blocks from my school, and several of our students were living there.
I could not stop thinking about that and about what I might do to contribute. It dawned on me that as a reading specialist, I could read aloud to children, possibly help them with their reading skills, and in the process, offer the gift of getting lost in a really good story.
But hearing a story is only half the magic. Why not gift the book to them as well? Any teacher of reading knows that good readers get there by practice, practice, and more practice.
I contacted a homeless shelter and ran my idea by the director. She was immediately on-board and excited about the possibilities. I also contacted the hospital pediatric floor. Would there be a need to read to sick children? They, too, were excited about having educators read to their young patients.
And Project Armchair was born.
But I never knew how immensely it would grow. I had only planned to volunteer as a solo act. After sharing my ideas and experiences with employees, they, too, wanted on-board. We now have teachers from Mandan, Bismarck, Fargo, and Minot all volunteering their time to give this gift to the children in crisis. I never imagined the project becoming larger than myself, but I am so glad it did.
Created by art teacher Ali Hein
When Founder Vonda Dahl first envisioned Project Armchair, she wrote the very image that encapsulated what she would strive for the children to feel:
"The sun streams through tall windows in yellow shafts of warmth. The room is quiet, save for the gentle tick of the mantle clock, and speckles of golden dust float noiselessly in the vacuum sound. The chair is massive, soft, and well-worn; like the hug of an old, fuzzy bear. A child is there, lost in the hug of the chair, mesmerized by the hush of the sanctuary. The book in his lap is a portal to another universe. One without pain, fear, or uncertainty. The child in the enormous chair does not hear the tick of the clock or see the golden specks that float aorund his head. He is only cognizant of the place he has entered through The Portal. His heart is light and his world at peace. For this magic, sacred moment, all is well."
The volunteer educators of Project Armchair are dedicated to serving the hospitalized and homeless children of our community by reading aloud rich children’s literature to children in crisis. Certified teacher volunteers encourage literacy engagement through choice of text (where applicable), model fluent reading, employ simple cognitive strategies, and gift the book to the child, so that the literacy experience may be replicated. It is the goal of Project Armchair to give children in crisis a reprieve from their crisis through the magic of the literacy journey.
More about us
Project Armchair is growing! In the last two years of operation, our local chapter has grown to twenty certified teachers. There are also three teachers from the Fargo area and an elementary school principal in Minot ready to serve in their communities. Various organizations have volunteered to hold book drives for us, and we have gladly accepted hundreds of books and given away hundreds as well. With the help of our dedicated volunteer teachers, we can visit both facilities several times a week, which improves literacy, increases the opportunity for children in crisis to get lost in a good book, and places more books in the hands of precious, worthy children.
If you would be interested in helping to purchase new copies of quality children's literature, it would be most appreciated. Just find the "DONATE" button under "GET INVOLVED" or on the main page to get more information on how you can help.