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“There’s nothing like showing up at Reading Buddies after a long day and being greeted with enthusiastic hugs and smiles from kids who you’ve only recently met. It’s so fun to see the kids read to each other and to strategize with older kids about how to make reading even more fun.”
Julia Kennedy, Reading Buddies Volunteer
In the spring of 2010, Maura Pritchard, an elementary school teacher and Vineyard member had vision for a Reading Program at the Fresh Pond Apartments. She teamed up with VCO staff and since then, we’ve had five different iterations of reading programs for kids at the Fresh Pond Apartments run by different VCO staff workers with curriculum ranging from literacy games, small group reading, reading in pairs, vocabulary activities, reading comprehension questions, acting, to story writing. It’s been fun to see how one person’s idea can change and adapt over time and still be a space that supports love for reading and relationships.
On Wednesday, February 6th, VCO kicked off Reading Program 6.0: Reading Buddies! The program is designed to encourage kindergarteners and first graders to read more, empower older children to be student leaders by volunteering through VCO, and foster diverse mentoring relationships. Students in kindergarten and 1st grade are paired with a student leader in grades 4th-5th or an adult volunteer to read and work on literacy activities. When the kindergarteners and 1st graders go home, student leaders and adult volunteers meet in mentor pairs to reflect on their volunteer experience.
The unique component of this year’s reading program is the focus on student leaders. We hope that this new model will empower kids to be leaders in their neighborhood. Ultimately, we would like to see them take ownership of programming, but to achieve this, students will need the support, guidance, and encouragement given by adult volunteers. We also hope that by spending time together in reflection, student leaders and volunteers will form meaningful relationships. We’re excited to see where our Reading Buddies program takes us!
Last month we wrapped up Soccer Nights All Stars, a 7-week program on Sundays offered to kids grades 4-7. It was quite a success: 36 North Cambridge kids were led by a fabulous team of 15 volunteer soccer and curriculum coaches.
Each week of Soccer Nights All Stars focused on a particular soccer skill as well as a leadership value. Participants learned to hone their soccer skills through coaching instruction, drills focusing on technique, and finally scrimmages where they could apply what they learned each week. Participants learned to recognize the importance of being a leader among your teammates, peers, and even family members, and how to implement the leadership skill they learned in their every day lives. Learning to actively listen to one another, discover their own passions, be patient and communicate well, and serve their communities were just a few of the components on which we focused. “The kids had a lot of fun and learned to be good team players,” said one All Stars coach.
Though the program is done for the year, we won’t be saying goodbye to our group of young leaders. They’re taking what they learned at All Stars and will be serving their community in an upcoming service project to clean up Russell Field and the surrounding neighborhood, followed by everyone’s favorite thing.. a soccer game!
“[Reading Workshop] feels fun because it makes me proud to share with my friends what
I’m doing after school. It also makes me responsible.” -Keyenah
Meet our 2011-2012 Reading Workshop Student Leaders. This year during Reading Workshop it’s been students who have taken the lead to volunteer. We met these students through other VCO programs including Soccer Nights and PFactory. During the past year they have served weekly, helping their younger peers learn to read. The kids love their enthusiasm, and we love watching them grow into leaders. Thank you, student leaders!