This summer, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh launched a brand-new volunteer program called Reading Buddies. The program was developed out of an initiative called Hazelwood Reads Together, and here’s the gist: trained volunteers are stationed in the library to read to and interact with kids, one on one or in small groups.
We know that kids succeed when they read, and that having a caring mentor doing the reading can be a big part of helping children develop a long-lasting love of books and reading. What we were also happy to discover is that volunteers love the experience, too.
One volunteer, Maddie, explains it like this: “I decided to become a Reading Buddies volunteer because I was working full time at a job that I was getting nothing out of … I decided to check out the library’s website and see if any volunteer opportunities were available. I saw the Reading Buddies post and was instantly drawn to it. I have always loved working with kids and I knew I would be a good fit. It became the highlight of my work weeks. My day would go faster knowing I was going to leave work and do something I actually enjoyed while giving back at the same time.”
Another volunteer, Sally, agrees: “The kids love to read, create puzzles and create stories … It’s nice to give all of the kids attention that takes them away from the computers. The kids are appreciative of the time and I appreciate the opportunity to engage with them in a fun, relaxed way. Reading Buddies is enjoyable for everyone. ”
Besides having the opportunity to give back by encouraging youth literacy, volunteering to read with kids helped some volunteers reflect on mentors who played a role in their own learning.
“My fourth grade teacher used to read my class a chapter of a book at the end of each day. He almost always picked one of Roald Dahl‘s books,” Maddie remembers. “I was always a pretty big reader, but when I started hearing these stories I was hooked. I still think of that teacher today when I see someone reading a Dahl book or see the old copies on my book shelf. I think of how my teacher did a great job of picking books our class would connect with, and I try to do that as a Reading Buddy.”
Adrienne, a Reading Buddy and a twenty-year veteran of teaching, recalls: “As a child, I always enjoyed being read to or reading with someone. Some of my favorite books were: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, the Dr. Seuss books, the Paddington series by Michael Bond, The Box Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and books by Judy Blume.”
Since June, twelve Reading Buddies volunteers have spent more than 150 hours volunteering to support early literacy at CLP – Hazelwood. As library staff, we appreciate and recognize the dedication of those who give their time and talents to support young minds in this way.
We’re currently recruiting Reading Buddies volunteers for three different Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations: Hazelwood, Hill District and Sheraden. If you’re interested, you can apply online or contact us for more information.