Starting in November, a group of Burlingame teens and elementary school students will become “Book Buddies,” thanks to an innovative free program at the Burlingame Library. The Book Buddies program, designed to promote literacy and build excitement for books, has been offered in many libraries around the country with great success, and so now the Burlingame Library will give it a try.
On Tuesday afternoons (Nov. 1-Dec. 20) from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., elementary school students will be matched with a teen buddy. They’ll meet in the Lane Room of the Burlingame Library, spend some time getting to know each other through ice-breaker activities, and then read to each other and participate in literacy activities. The elementary students can bring books from school or home, or select a book from a cart provided by the library. Library staff will be on hand to assist as needed.
Both the younger and older students must fill out an application for the program and be willing to commit to attending once a week for eight weeks. This pilot program is limited to 15 elementary students and 15 teens, and registration is already full for the elementary students.
Interested elementary students can add their name to a waiting list. There’s still room for teen volunteers and it’s best if they sign up soon so they can participate in the mandatory volunteer training on Oct. 18 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
“We’re looking for teens who are excited about books and willing to encourage a love of reading,” said Kathy von Mayrhauser, children’s services and Easton Branch manager at the Burlingame Library. “And we definitely are in need of more teens so that we can offer this program. It’s our aim to give younger children the opportunity to come to the library for extra help and let teens act as role models for the elementary-age children.”
The program is not designed to offer tutoring, or to help children with learning difficulties, but rather to promote a love of reading. The library is, however, looking for a few teens who are able to read in Spanish and English, particularly to help students from McKinley School in the Spanish-English language immersion program. Each teen volunteer will participate in training and receive a handbook to help them be good reading buddies.
In Charlottesville, VA, a similar program has been in operation for 12 years and is a huge success. A collaboration of the Charlottesville City Schools, the University of Virginia, and the Charlottesville community, the program’s aim is to ensure all children are reading by 3rd grade. In 12 years 1,600 children in grades 1-2 have participated, and a high percentage end up reading at grade level.
If the Burlingame program is successful, the ;ibrary is considering offering an additional session beginning in January, and perhaps changing the meeting time to later in the afternoon. “We know teens are busy,” said von Mayrhauser,” so we want to make it easier for them to volunteer.”