Reading program matches young and old

High school and primary students working together to improve literacy levels

Young, struggling readers are being given a chance to learn outside of the classroom, with a new program at two local libraries.

But this time, it won’t be the librarians helping kids with literacy.

Instead, Reading Buddies matches young students with volunteers from within the community who want to share their knowledge.

The young ‘buddies’ are kids in Grades 1 to 4 that are having trouble reading. The older ‘buddies’ are generally high schoolers, aged 15 and over, who are looking for ways to volunteer in the community. Older buddies can also be adults, and all volunteers are required to complete a criminal record check.

Chilliwack librarian Jacquelynne Garden is excited to be getting the program up and running at the downtown branch, and will be helping set up the program in Yarrow as well.

Both locations will need young students who need a little help, as well as students who can give a little help. The buddies will be matched up for an hour a week, and parents are invited to be a part of the first meet up.

And yes, Garden says, an hour of reading is long time for a reluctant reader to be expected to focus. So, in addition to access to all manners of reading material, buddies will have tables of games and puzzles that encourage literacy in a more hands-on way.

While Garden is coordinating the Reading Buddies program, it’s the volunteers who will bring it to life. For example, it will be the responsibility of the older buddies to connect with their younger buddies’ parents, Garden says. They will also go through an orientation session so they know how to help their young buddies.

The program is highly successful in Clearbrook, for families with varying barriers to teaching at home, she says.

The benefits for the younger readers are plentiful. They get a break from classroom learning and can hopefully connect with an older student in a positive way, Garden says. But there are benefits for the teen volunteers, too. Being a reading tutor can open a student’s eyes to potential career paths, while filling volunteer hour requirements.

The program is just getting started and runs through the school year, and Garden will continue matching buddies until the spring.

To learn more, phone the library at 604-792-1941.