Mentoring is a Bush family tradition, this month make it yours, too

By Doro Bush Koch,

As my children have grown older and I have become an empty nester, I find myself reflecting on the many days and nights I spent helping my four children with their homework.

Many times it felt like a thankless job, and I had to relearn fourth-grade science and social studies. But I could remember those moments when their little eyes would light up as if a bulb went off in their brains, and they finally understood the concept.

Many times, I was able to listen to their problems from school and give advice. It was my way of mentoring them, giving them the tools they need to make good decisions and helping them prepare for the challenges of adulthood.

It is never too early to start mentoring.

As adults, we have a wonderful opportunity to mentor children or our grandchildren. Mentoring impacts children’s lives by letting them know someone cares. And many children who do not have the support system at home are in desperate need of mentoring. If a child is struggling in school and unable to read proficiently by third grade, he or she is four times more likely to drop out of high school. Many of these children have low self-esteem and need the extra confidence and support to know that each of them is valuable and can make it. Sometimes all they need is a helping hand.

January is National Mentoring Month, which highlights the importance and benefits of youth mentoring. It is never too early to start mentoring. Through my work at The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, I have met amazing teenagers who volunteer their time with first-, second- or third-graders who were six months or more behind in reading to help them improve their reading skills. And many times the mentor and mentee create and share a special bond, because they spend quality time together and the child feels someone really cares.

The foundation’s Teen Trendsetters Program is expanding in several states, including Texas, Maine and Florida, where elementary schools and high schools partner to make it a success. We provide the curriculum that ensures that struggling children have the resources they need to improve their reading skills, and the high schools provide the wonderful teen volunteers who want to develop leadership skills and, most importantly, make a difference in a child’s life.

100% of participating students start at least 6-months behind in reading but more than half of the first-graders end the school year reading on grade level. Both mentors and mentees report increased self-esteem from participating in the program. Many of the high school students decide to become teachers, and they have a 96 percent graduation rate.

Mentoring has been part of our family’s traditions. From my nephew to my own brothers, they have mentored struggling students to help them succeed in school. For my New Year’s resolution, I plan to mentor a child in my home state of Maryland through one of our new Teen Trendsetters programs. This month, I encourage you to take the mentoring challenge and find a child in need in your local community, or your own child or grandchild, and take the time to mentor. It can change their lives.

Doro Bush Koch, daughter of former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush, is honorary chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

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