cjChase and his twin brother were three years old when they entered the Shared Visions program at Perry Child Development Center. Chase is outgoing and eager to take charge – often answering for his twin. With that, he sometimes struggles to comply with standard classroom rules and expectations.

With Book Buddy being new to the Perry Child Development Center, and the kids being a little younger than the typical “buddy,” staff were unsure if the program would be successful. But as the first couple of weeks got underway, Chase and his fellow students looked forward to when their Book Buddy friends would come.

Just as the staff needed to work out the “kinks” of a new program, Chase also had to work through some adjustments. At first, he was eager to be up, moving, and interacting with someone new. But as time passed, he started to show more interest which turned into excitement when he’d see Jose, his Book Buddy, walk in the door.

Jose, a local high school student, was also new to the Book Buddy program. At first, he was a little uncertain about reading with kids. Despite their hesitations, they both learned to trust one another, gained invaluable lifelong skills, and created a friendship throughout the school year.

“I experienced first-hand how to interact with younger children and how to help them learn in a way they can understand,” Jose said. “I had a great experience bonding and building friendships with Chase and other preschoolers. When I would walk in the class, kids would run up to me and give me a hug or a high five. They did more than reading, they learned how to get closer with me and be themselves.”

As the school year continued, Chase became more involved and engaged during regular classroom time. When reading independently or with the class, he would make connections from stories to real-life events. At the age of three, he recognized letters and their associated sounds. Though the students are exposed to several types of learning experiences throughout the day, Chase’s teachers reported that having the one-on-one experience with Book Buddy has furthered Chase’s literacy skills and social interactions.

“It helps more than the students,” Jose said. “The skills I gained from Book Buddy helped me with my reading, too, and it taught me how to build friendships with and teach younger kids. I would like to do it again next year!”

Topics: Education

Anna Schaber

Written by Anna Schaber

Anna Schaber is the former Volunteer Engagement Specialist for United Way of Central Iowa.