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Would you like to help a child learn to read? Join us in Book Buddies!

January is National Mentoring Month.

All month long we are featuring guest posts from many of our local nonprofits that work with youth and need volunteers to become mentors and tutors. On January 26, 2012, the United Way Volunteer Center invites you to our annual Mentor and Tutor Opportunity Fair from 11:00 - 2:00 at the Omni Hotel. There you will be able to meet in person with representatives from 17 local organizations and fit the right fit for you as a mentor or tutor.

Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!


Why am I a Book Buddy?  The thrill of watching a child advancing from learning to read to loving to read over the course of the year cannot be explained.  I am neither a trained educator nor a reading specialist.  I am a community volunteer and a former Charlottesville public school parent who wants to give back to my school system for educating my own children.

I could tell you all about the wonderful benefits of being a Book Buddy tutor, but I decided instead to tell you more about one of my Book Buddies.  He was a 6-year old boy from Somalia, relocated to Charlottesville by the IRC.  English was not his first language.  As I was also told, he did not have a written language or any written language skills when he arrived in Charlottesville.

Boy_reading_bookMy job as a Book Buddy was to help him with his reading and writing skills so as to get him to grade level.  I had a lesson plan prepared for me by a Reading Specialist each time I came in to see him.  It contained all the necessary skills he would need to learn to read and write in English.  My Book Buddy loved reading, but was not so keen on writing, so that was one of the challenges.

But there was another “hidden” advantage to the program.  In working with an ESL child, you can teach them about things that they have never seen or words that they have never heard.  One of our exercises used the words barbeque grill and a pretzel - two things that he had never seen.  One day I had to define a hike and tell him about roasting marshmallows over a fire.  These little things actually affect how well he could do on standardized tests which are so important in our schools today.

From a selfish standpoint, there were so many benefits that I gained from the program - the look of pleasure on my Book Buddies' face when I went to the classroom to pickup him up; the friendship that developed between us; and the most important thing - making a difference in a life by helping a child to learn to read.


Guest post submitted by Susan Gainer, Book Buddy Volunteer


Book Buddies is a volunteer tutorial program in the Charlottesville City Schools that pairs up trained community volunteers with first grade students who need more reading instruction. We have lessons at different times at the 5 city elementary schools and we match up our tutors and students to work together twice a week, at the same time, for the entire school year.

We begin in mid- September and continue through May. We train our new tutors "on the job" and provide support throughout the year by modeling lessons and activities, answering questions, and helping out whenever needed. The lessons are 45 minutes in length, so the entire time would be about an hour. There is a coordinator responsible for the tutors in each school who writes the detailed lesson plans and provides all the materials so that the lesson is very structured and productive.  The tutors come in a few minutes (5-10) early and review their plans and materials. Then the tutor picks up the student and brings him/her to the Book Buddies room. The tutor writes notes/observations for the coordinator before leaving so the next lesson plan can be appropriate for the student.

The relationship develops into a very strong one, and the students work hard for their tutors. Most tutors stay on for many years with us because they find the experience very productive and rewarding, and it does make a difference to that individual child.

If you are interested, please contact Jeanette Rosenberg at 245-2415 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.


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