Based on my short experience with the school—haven’t read yet but have been helping with the first grade math students for 3 weeks— I think you’re right about focusing on connection rather than perfection.
Here’s why: classes are large—less confident students can easily get overshadowed. I have students in the math group who are very bright, but need extra support for a variety of reasons. Like all children, they blossom when given individualized attention from caring adults.
I’ve already been rewarded by having the first grade teacher and a couple of parents thank me for volunteering, and, yes, receiving smiles, waves, and hugs when I run into the kids around town.
It’s a great feeling. I’m confident the reading program can enrich the students’ lives, lighten the teachers’ workloads, and provide us volunteers with a sense of contributing to something important.