In elementary schools all across the world, teachers are working tirelessly to get kids excited about reading. We try everything under the sun to evoke the love of reading. In this day and age with all of the gizmos and gadgets technology has provided us, it can be a challenge to get kids interested in reading a just a plain, old book. One idea to increase interest in reading came from a very worthy organization.
The United Way of Porter County provides a wide variety of programs for our community. One program that has impacted me as a teacher the most is the Reading Buddy program. The program provides stuffed animal “buddies” for 1st and 2nd grade students to read aloud to each day for 15 minutes or more.
When the stuffed animals arrived in a giant blue bag, the anticipation was already very evident as kids came into the room. I told the students we were going to participate in a reading program special for 2nd graders. I now had a very captivated audience. As I explained to them they would be receiving a Reading Buddy to whom they would read, excitement continued to grow.
I wanted to make sure to avoid kids not being happy with which stuffed animal they received, so I continued to build suspense by telling them I would be pulling out one animal at a time, “The animal meant for you will magically come to my hand!” At this point you could hear the ooohs and ahhhs all over my classroom.
One by one, I called up a child and put my hand into the blue bag. You would have thought my classroom had turned into “The Price is Right” as the winner closest to the price ran down the aisle! They were so excited to meet their new buddy and no one complained about the animal they were given.
The United Way of Porter County Reading Buddies is currently in 125 classrooms across Northwest Indiana. The program was developed in 2003 by the United Way Regional Volunteer Center in partnership with Volunteer Ambassadors, the Valparaiso University Softball Team.
Who would have thought a cute, little stuffed animal could make such a huge difference in a child’s attitude toward reading? “He read to his Reading Buddy for an hour last night. Usually it is a struggle to get him to sit down and read” is the response of one parent after sending the Reading Buddies home with the students.
My kids tell me all the time about how they read to their buddy each night. They even voted to have Stuffed Animal Day for their reward for our classroom behavior incentive. Many children said they planned on bringing in their Reading Buddy!