Reading Buddies up and at ’em for new school year in Summit County
Summit Daily News
With the beginning of the school year, the Rotary Club of Summit County’s Reading Buddies program also has started up again, serving students at all developmental stages of reading proficiency.
The program pairs volunteers with children – grades K to 6 – to help students develop reading and writing skills. The goal is to inspire young students to become effective and enthusiastic readers, and originally only focused on students needing a little extra support.
This past year, some of the teachers have decided to have volunteers work with more advanced readers who may benefit from the experience, Mary Anne Johnston, the Rotary’s literacy chair said. Johnston helped create the program in the fall of 2009.
Reading Buddies takes place at Summit County elementary schools, where teachers elect students for buddies. The students are then paired with volunteers who work to encourage the children while they’re reading. Volunteers help students stuck on certain words, assist them in finding meaning during their reading, and offer support while they read. Sessions are generally one-on-one, but sometimes involve a few students at a time. They usually last a half hour to an hour.
Jane Barber is now in her third year of volunteering, which she does at Breckenridge Elementary.
She was able to work with two accelerated readers this past winter; “an enhancement to their curriculum,” she called it.
“By the end they were reading chapter books and doing a lot of good writing and illustrating,” she said. “They loved it and I loved it.”
As the program grows, Barber has found that teachers and principals get more involved.
Frisco Elementary volunteer Jean Radin started last winter and worked through the spring with a third grader. She has been a teacher her whole life and “just wanted to make a contribution.” Radin, who worked with a learning disabled and English language learner, said it was the first time she had done so, and at first, found it challenging to approach the lesson material. But the meetings were the high point of her week. By the end of the school year, the student had become more communicative and their retention had improved. She also finds value in providing support to teachers.
Marcia Holub, like Barber, is also in her third year. She volunteers at Dillon Valley Elementary. Holub’s professional career was in nursing; she finds Reading Buddies just as rewarding, if not more so.
“These children are delightful, so responsive,” she said. “It’s just a joy to be with them.”
Holub loves watching the progress the kids make from September to May, as well as seeing their faces light up when she visits. She listens to them read, sometimes helps with writing, and in turn, the kids tell her about their pets or siblings.
Holub has no ties to the school – her grandson lives in Kansas City – so her efforts are nothing more than a desire to work with the kids.
“I wish more people would do it,” she said. “The need is great for the teachers, especially with all the budget cuts.”
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