Growing up, books were a staple. I read everything I could, scoured over the Scholastic book fair bifold, and trips to Barnes & Noble were only slightly less exciting than an elementary school sleepover. While my love for reading isn’t quite as strong as it was twenty-some years ago, it has played a huge role in shaping who I am and what I’ve been able to learn.
Reading taught me imagination and the power of make-believe. I learned life lessons through the American classics and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through the Declaration of Independence. Without the ability to read, I’m not sure what I would know or believe in.
This fall I became a Book Buddy, a phenomenal United Way of Central Iowa volunteer program, where I get the opportunity to help two four-year-olds work on developing their reading and literacy skills.
Once a week, I head to a nearby early childhood learning center and get smiles, high-fives and hugs from my book buddies. During those 30 minutes, I get to put my life on pause and focus solely on my buddies.
Hearing what the letter of the week is and seeing if we can find that letter in this week’s book.
Learning what my book buddies are most excited for at recess.
And sometimes, hearing that they’ve recently ridden a horse – a pink and purple polka-dotted horse! (The power of make-believe is alive and well in my buddies, and I love it!)
The first time I went to Book Buddy last fall, I was so excited. But, about 20 seconds before we met our buddies for the first time, I recall thinking, Oh my gosh, I have no idea how to teach a four-year-old how to read. What am I doing?
It’s fair to say those thoughts quickly subsided.
Sure, those first few weeks were pretty quiet. My book buddies were seemingly shy. But now, six months in, my book buddies are eagerly turning the pages in our book, shouting out letters and making the story even better with sound effects of their own. It’s easy to see how much they’ve learned and the self-confidence they’ve gained.
When I tell people about Book Buddy, often they respond saying how great that must be for the kids. But to be fair, it’s been equally as great for me. I look forward to Tuesday mornings each week and am so encouraged by their enthusiasm, desire to learn and what they’ve accomplished. It’s because of their optimism and ability to dream that central Iowa will shine brighter. And that’s something I’m thankful to be part of.
Interested in Being a Book Buddy?
If you would like to learn how you can be a Book Buddy too, and would like to try it for one day, click below for an opportunity on April 14th or 19th to be a Book Buddy for a Day!