Tools for creating a safe reading environment

WITS is committed to supporting our volunteers to ensure they feel prepared to be literacy mentors. The following suggestions and tools can assist volunteers in creating a safe reading environment to build strong relationships and maximize reading level growth.

WITS is excited to offer a virtual reading mentoring program for students and mentors for the 2020-2021 school year. The virtual program will bring together students and adult volunteers for a year of mentorship, shared reading, and community building – all staples of a traditional WITS program. The program was designed with the unique needs of a virtual setting in mind. WITS will provide access to a robust online library of children’s books. WITS will utilize whole group activities and breakout groups, where students and mentors will form teams of readers. Most importantly, WITS will make sure that our virtual space is welcoming, encouraging, and safe for students.
Learn More

How does it work?
  • Small groups of 1-2 mentors with 2-3 students meeting through video with Google Meet
  • Mentors will use Epic! - an online book library - for shared reading with students
  • Program will be 30 to 45 minutes plus time for logging in before sessions begin
  • Partner teacher and WITS staff member will be logged on to the WITS session

How will we utilize Google Meet?
  • Students and Mentors log in before program starts
  • Students and Mentors break into small groups for shared reading and mentoring time
  • WITS Staff Member and Partner Teacher check in with small groups during breakouts

Mentors will use Epic! – an online book library – for shared reading with students (WITS will provide a shared Epic! account for mentors).

Housekeeping/Tech FAQs


You should…

Your internet goes out

Text your program staff member.

You have a slow connection

Do not use the “blur background” feature on Google Meet. Make sure you are using the most current version of Google Chrome as your browser. Close any applications you aren’t using.

A link doesn’t work

Before program: email your program staff member.
During program: text your program staff member.

You find yourself alone in a breakout room with one student

Text your program staff member and go back to main meeting. Send a chat in the main meeting too.

You can’t log in to Epic!

Try your class code again.

You can’t share your screen and see your students at the same time

Make sure you have two windows, not two tabs, open. Use the Google Meet Guide to review how.

You can’t find your name in Epic!

Use the “Guest” account. Let your program staff member know afterwards.

You can’t hear your students or you can’t hear anyone at all

Use the red phone icon to “hang up” and exit the meeting. Do not close the tab. Then rejoin the meeting.

Check the volume on your own device, ask your students to unmute themselves.

If none of these works, contact your program staff member.

If other people cannot hear you

If you have a main room and separate small group rooms, leave the main room and remain only in your small group meeting.

Use the phone number provided in bottom left corner of the meeting notice to call in on your phone. Continue using your computer for video and Epic!

You can’t see yourself/your students can’t see you

Make sure your camera is turned on.

You can’t see your students

Your students may have their cameras off. That’s okay!

Your students have ongoing tech issues

Let your program staff member know.  

You have a slow connection

Do not use the “blur background” feature on Google Meet. Make sure you are using the most current version of Google Chrome as your browser. Close any applications you aren’t using.

You can’t share your screen

If you receive an error message, search online for the specific error message + the type of computer you’re using

You are having other ongoing video or audio issues within Google Meet

Look for tips specific to your computer type on the Google Meet help site: https://support.google.com/meet/answer/7380413?hl=en

Program Policies


  • In order to build community within the WITS virtual program space, all volunteers are expected to attend the first two sessions of virtual programming to meet their students and volunteer partner. After the first two sessions, volunteers will begin their regularly scheduled session with students.
  • Volunteers will do everything they can to attend all scheduled program times and be ready to engage with students. If volunteers will be absent from a virtual session for whatever reason, they will notify their WITS program staff member as soon as possible.


  • All WITS program staff members are mandated reporters. If a volunteer is suspicious of child abuse or neglect, they must let their program staff member know immediately.
  • Students may disclose information about sensitive topics, including, but not limited to: hunger, homelessness, and/or feelings of depression or anxiety. If a student says anything that is concerning, please let the WITS program staff member know immediately.


  • Meeting virtually means that we are now inviting people into a highly personal space: our homes. Volunteers are expected to meet with students in an appropriate space in their home, preferably with a neutral background and minimal distractions.
  • Avoid meeting with students in a bedroom or other personal areas in the home.
  • Volunteers will not virtually share their space with students or give students a virtual tour of their home.
  • Volunteers will not ask students to virtually share their personal space or home.

External Guests

  • To keep all students safe and to ensure that students are only in contact with adults approved by WITS and CPS, volunteers will not introduce their family, roommates, friends, etc. to students.
  • Volunteers will not ask students to introduce them to anyone in their home.
  • A student’s parent/caregiver may be present or nearby during WITS, and it is okay if they want to say hello to volunteers during a WITS session.
  • If a student asks if a sibling can join a WITS session, please let your program staff member or classroom teacher know. Our programs are designed to serve students in a specific classroom.


  • Volunteers must be dressed appropriately for all WITS sessions.
  • Casual dress (t-shirts, sweatshirts, jeans, etc.) is acceptable.
  • Do not wear any article of clothing that may have inappropriate sayings, decals, or logos (ex: local breweries).

Virtual Presence

  • Be actively engaged with WITS students throughout the entire session.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to close their inbox and/or other work-related materials and set their phones to silent.

Approved Platforms and Technology

  • Google Meet and Epic! are the only approved platforms that WITS volunteers can use when virtually meeting with students. All WITS sessions on Google Meet will be initiated by a WITS staff member.
  • Volunteers are not to contact students outside of WITS, exchange any contact information with students, and/or add, invite, and accept “friend” or contact requests of students on any personal social media.
  • All WITS volunteers will be given access to a shared Epic! account in order to read and virtually share books with students. This will require volunteers to share their screen. When doing so, close out any tabs that contain personal or work-related information. Do not have any websites open that would be inappropriate or unsuitable for students.
  • In order to properly see students and share a screen while using Epic!, volunteers must be on a laptop or desktop computer during a WITS session.
  • Using the chat function in Google Meet is permitted for students and volunteers. Please do not share any links with students through the chat function.
  • Volunteers are never to be alone with a student while in a Google Meet breakout room. If a student logs out of the session for whatever reason, and a volunteer is alone with another student, please notify the WITS program staff member immediately through text or email.
  • If internet issues or other technical difficulties occur during a WITS session, please notify the WITS program staff member immediately.
  • It is expected that WITS volunteers will keep their cameras on during a WITS session. If a volunteer needs to turn their camera off for whatever reason, they will let the students know and tell them how long they anticipate keeping the camera off.
    • Example: “I need to turn my camera off for a moment. I’m still here in our session, and I will turn my camera on in a few minutes.”
  • Student safety and comfort is WITS’ top priority. With this in mind, students have the option to keep their cameras on or off during a session. Volunteers will be respectful of a student’s choice and not ask them to turn their camera on if they do not want it on.
  • Volunteers will not record, screenshot, or take photos of their WITS session with students.


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Thank you for your interest in volunteering with WITS! All WITS volunteers are required to attend a one-hour virtual orientation before the start of program. At the orientation, you will learn about program logistics, the WITS values, and how to be a great mentor. Please sign up for ONE orientation that best fits your schedule. You will receive a meeting link via email closer to the orientation date.
  • Please only pick ONE. All times are CST.