Reading Buddy volunteers work with our Partners In Education (PIE) schools to provide support for young people. Volunteers commit to spend an hour each week with a child chosen by the child’s teacher. I chose to become a Reading Buddy because I am an avid reader, and I wanted to share my love of books with a young person.
Meeting My Reading Buddy
I knew in advance my Reading Buddy was a girl in the third grade. I was shocked when I met her. She was taller than I am and probably weighed 25 more pounds than I do. When I saw her, I was flooded with memories. When I was in the third grade I was the tallest person in my school. People kept saying that I was going to be six foot tall just like my father. I was always placed in the back row of any picture. I was so conscious and embarrassed by my height when I was the age of my Reading Buddy. During that first meeting, my Reading Buddy shared with me that she was bullied because of her size. I told her my story. As I shared with her, my friends grew taller and taller in high school but I didn’t grow.
As soon as I got home, I emailed the girl’s teacher. I shared with her that my Reading Buddy was being bullied at school. The teacher shared with me that my Reading Buddy had been removed from her mother’s care. Her mother verbally abused and bullied my Reading Buddy. She was now being raised by her grandparents.
I realized that consistency was critical for my Reading Buddy. My mission was to help her with her reading and to build up her self-esteem too. I wanted her to know that she could count on me.
I had a set curriculum for each session. The first twenty minutes I would read a book that she had selected. The next twenty minutes we played an educational game or worked on a special activity. The final twenty minutes my Reading Buddy would read to me.
Developing a Relationship
My first goal was to develop a friendship with my Reading Buddy. I wanted her to feel valued and comfortable when we were together. She was very shy so that made it even harder to evaluate our relationship. It was probably a month before I saw her smile when I entered her classroom.
It was eye opening to me that most third grade books are not diverse. The main characters are usually an animal or a white child. The illustrations did not include children of color. So, I went on a search for third grade books that had African American heroes. When I found a book, I would either give it to the teacher for the classroom or I would give it to my Reading Buddy for a special occasion.
She was shocked that first time I gave her a book.
It was amazing to watch her progress weekly. Reading Buddies supplemented the work of her teacher. Her standardized test results were very positive the first year we were matched. Last year the standardized tests were not administered so verifiable results are not available. Anecdotally I am confident she made great strides. She was promoted to the fifth grade.
I would absolutely recommend the Reading Buddy program. It was one of my most rewarding activities plus I believe it truly made a difference in a young girl’s life.
Margo Mitchell serves as the Chair of All Souls Partners In Education Committee and is a proud Reading Buddy—one of PIE’s many programs supporting the families, students, and staff at our partner schools. Since COVID-19, the Reading Buddy program has been suspended, but there are many opportunities to still serve. If you’d like to support Tulsa children through our education ministry, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to help feed Tulsa families, connect with our Community Resource Bank, email@example.com.