Reading Buddies: Investing in the Future

By the time I was eight years old I had hunted bear with bow and arrow, ridden across the open plains upon magnificent horses, and hacked my way through lion infested jungles. By the time I was ten years old, distant lands were no longer foreign and the world had become my playground.  All this and more I accomplished solely through reading without ever leaving my home. As a kid, books were my escape from a quarreling family and chaotic life. It wasn’t until later that I realized how my early love of reading had paved the way for my achievements in adulthood.

Reading is vitally important. Our lives revolve around its daily usage. Pause for a moment and think about the people you know, their stations in life, as well as their levels of literacy. Generally you will find people with high degrees of competency were or are avid readers.

My son was always encouraged to read, and that same encouragement is being passed on to my grandson. Through my son’s thirst for knowledge and my daughter-in-law being an elementary school teacher, my grandson’s reading level will be quite good -- but not all children are fortunate enough to receive encouragement or have a father and mother present in their lives for whatever reasons.

I’m a “Reading Buddy.” It’s an odd title, but one I wear proudly. Two days each week I volunteer to go to my grandson’s elementary school, sign in, and go to a teacher’s classroom.  The teacher selects two or three students to go with me to the cafeteria where we will sit, read and discuss books the teacher has chosen for them that day.  I read to them or they read to me. I ask them about the books and they give me all sorts of answers, some even related to the books. Those little elementary school cafeteria chairs are not the most comfortable in the world, and the pay for being a “Reading Buddy” is zero – but the personal reward I receive is far greater than a treasure chest of gold. Their smiles are my paycheck. And if lucky, I might do something for one of those kids that make a difference in their lives.

There are a dozen reasons why some children may not receive encouragement at home and this writing is certainly is not intended to be a soap box to preach from. Yes, some of the reasons disturb me, especially when it involves parents being more concerned with their own lives than that of their child’s. But there are single parent homes where the parent is often gone, working two jobs to support the family or the parent’s own literacy level may not be adequate to help their child learn to read. And worse, as I experienced today, a child may have recently lost a parent and feels lost in life with little reason to want to read.

Give back to your community. Invest in the future by investing your time with a child. Volunteer to do something with the talents you have. Teachers are overworked and underpaid. They appreciate every bit of help they receive.  After all, they are establishing the educational foundation of the children that are tomorrow’s leaders.

A flower needs water and sunshine in order to grow.  A child needs love and encouragement to flourish.


Note: In our school district volunteers must complete a form and undergo a background check before being allowed to work in any of the schools. It’s another good process to insure the safety of our children.

Glenn Starkey