This summer, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) celebrated the three-year anniversary of launching a learning and mentoring program for children called Reading Buddies. The program was developed out of an initiative called Hazelwood Reads Together, and has grown from one library location to 12, in part because of the flexible way the program is designed to support literacy and learning.
We know how important it is for kids to spend time reading with positive, engaging adults, so Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh invited interested community members to join our crew of dedicated volunteers who support youth literacy.
Reading Buddies volunteers are stationed in the library’s Children’s Department to support kids as they explore and learn. Reading Buddies act as caring mentors who read with kids, provide homework help, play games, learn about technology, and have supportive conversations. Since the launch of the program three years ago, volunteers have logged literally thousands of hours reading, playing, and learning with kids at CLP locations across the city.
We knew that having community members act as learning mentors would be positive for children in our communities, and we are happy to report that volunteers found the experience equally engaging.
One former volunteer, Maddie, explained her involvement like this: “[Reading Buddies] became the highlight of my work weeks. My day would go faster knowing I was going to leave work and do something I actually enjoyed while giving back at the same time.”
Sarah, a volunteer at CLP – Homewood, recently had this to say about her day volunteering: “Today I read with three of my regular buddies and one new buddy who managed to turn three Pete the Cat books into PURE POETRY, she was fantastic. It was really great, and each time that I’m here I’m so glad to see more familiar faces. It is a gift to be here every week.”
Because there’s always something different going on at the library, we tell volunteers there’s no such thing as a “typical day”. Reading Buddies can go from reading a book about princesses (and crafting paper crowns to go along with it), to checking out new apps, to playing a rousing game of chess all in one volunteer shift.
To prepare our volunteers ahead of time, the library provides a training and orientation that not only covers the logistical concerns of volunteering (scheduling, logging hours, and required paperwork), but also goes into detail about how to choose a great book to read, the importance of mentoring, and provides a deep-dive into library resources.
Volunteer trainings take place once-per-month, so new volunteers always have a way to join the program and get started. We’re currently recruiting Reading Buddies volunteers at a number of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations: Beechview, Brookline, Downtown & Business, East Liberty, Hazelwood, Hill District, Homewood, Knoxville, Sheraden, West End, and Woods Run. If you are interested, you can apply online or contact us for more information.