January Volunteer of the Month

December 23, 2022 | Volunteer of the Month

If you’ve ever been to Writing for Wee-bots, our weekly drop-in storytime-based writing program for ages 5-10, then you know Claire. Maybe you’ve even met her Boston terrier Dot virtually on Zoom. Claire has been leading the Wee-bots for seven years with heart, care, and flexibility. She started  in our Ann Arbor Liberty Street Writing Lab and in March of 2020 she quickly switched the program over to a virtual format on Zoom.  Starting in January, she’s returning to in-person sessions on Saturdays in both Ann Arbor and Detroit! 

Claire reads through dozens of children’s books to select the themes and writing practices for Wee-bot sessions each semester. Then, during sessions, she creates space for each Wee-bot to express themselves through non-fiction or fiction writing before sharing with the group. She listens to students deeply, encourages students, and notices and names the things students are doing well as writers.  We’re so lucky to know Claire and have her as our Writing for Wee-bots leader! 

Want to register your 5-10 year-old Wee-bot for in-person sessions? Click here

Want to volunteer for Wee-bots on Saturdays? Visit our Volunteer Calendar or fill out a volunteer application if you’re new!

Here’s more about Claire: 

Tell the world a little bit about your 826 volunteering so far:
I started volunteering at 826 in the fall of 2014. I volunteered at Wee Bots and an after-school writing program for older kids. In January 2015 the person who was going to lead the Wee Bots fell through. So Catherine asked me if I could lead for the semester. I started reading a ton of picture books and creating lessons. Elementary school-aged kids are so creative and fun! I was hooked! I have been leading the Wee Bots ever since!

In March of 2020 when schools and everything else closed Catherine asked me to lead the Bots on Zoom. For the last two years we have been meeting and writing online. I miss being in a classroom with the Bots, but I love that I got to meet writers from all over Michigan!

Tell us about one or two of your favorite Wee-bot memories:
I love seeing kids be proud of their writing. A very proud writer smiled and told me that he had never written a whole story before.
A girl was worried about aging out of Wee Bots. I told her that when she did she would be old enough for other writing programs. She asked “Until I grow up?” I said that she could be an 826 student until she graduated from high school; then she’d be a volunteer. She looked at me very seriously and said “I want my job to be working here.”

What is your favorite Wee-bot lesson/book to teach and why?
I love reading “Wolfie the Bunny” by Ame Dyckman and teaching about the literary technique of surprise. It’s such a funny book! Also I like that the main character, Dot, shares a name with my dog. As an added bonus I get to do an angry bunny voice when I read it. If you ask a room full of elementary-aged students to write stories that include a surprise you will get a lot of amazing stories.

Words of wisdom to fellow and future volunteers?
Some kids need time to consider before they start writing. Give kids space to gather their thoughts and let their ideas bloom. Just because a writer is quiet, it doesn’t mean they’re not working.

The best way to help stuck writers is to ask a lot of questions! Tell the students to write down their answers.

What was the best Halloween costume you ever sported?

I am very proud of the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” costumes that I made for myself and Dot. (see the photo above!)

Hidden talents?

I am an expert four-leaf clover finder! I have a collection pressed in an old book.

Please describe your ideal pizza.

I love a deep-dish cheese pizza from Buddy’s! I want at least one corner piece for the extra crusty edge!

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