An unlikely team of University of Findlay students are working together to raise awareness about the importance of children’s literacy. Criminal justice major Nicole Burke and middle childhood education major Jillian Prince have teamed up to help fight the increasing substandard reading levels in schools by volunteering with the Reading Buddies program at Jacobs Primary School in Findlay, OH. At the 13th Annual Symposium for Scholarship and Creativity, they showcased literacy statistics, shared their volunteer experience and presented various ways to get involved in the community.
Managed by Jacobs Primary School librarian, Carol Wells, the Reading Buddies program gives students authentic experiences to support their interest in reading. Held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 2:30 – 3:20 p.m., volunteers read books to kindergarteners to supplement classroom instruction. Approximately 25 students attend each session and are divided into groups of 2-4, depending on the quantity of volunteers. In addition to the storybook, each student completes a craft associated with the theme of the book. “Student’s younger years are really when they learn the most and pick up on why reading is important,” said Prince. “Being able to be a positive influence on their lives, talk to them each week and encourage them to keep doing their best is an incredible opportunity.”
Prince is responsible for their engagement in the group, having heard about it through one of her education courses. Burke initially came as a supportive friend, but quickly came to realize the importance of what they were doing. After volunteering a few times, they saw the need in the school and decided they had to do something more. “People who have come from low-income families and are also illiterate are more likely than others to interact with the criminal justice system at some point in their lives,” Burke explained. “It’s so important to give young children your time and just be there as a role model.”
Students whose reading capabilities are below the grade standard have a hard time catching back up again. According to proliteracy.org, more than 36 million adults in the United States cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Low literacy costs American taxpayers $225 billion dollars or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment. Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out. There is a clear correlation between more education and higher earnings, and between higher educational scores and higher earnings.
What Prince and Burke would most like to see is for more people to step up and make a difference in the community. “There are times when I feel like I’m too busy or too tired, but at the end of the day it’s important to give your time to people who really need it,” said Prince. “I love these students and I hope I’ve been able to have as big an impact on their lives as they’ve had on mine”. If you are interested in volunteering with the Reading Buddies program, please contact Carol Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about volunteering in Hancock County, visit http://www.volunteerhancockcounty.org/.