Kindergarten student Quentin Larkey rarely missed an opportunity to read books each Saturday morning this semester with Emory & Henry students who volunteered at a children’s reading program at the Glade Spring Library.
His mother, Rachel Larkey, said her son was very excited to attend the reading program each week. “Toward the end of the semester, he was already reading easy readers. It helped him tremendously with his skills.”
That’s the kind of comments E&H graduate Hai Yan Chen liked to hear when she volunteered to design and implement Saturday Reading Buddies, a new program which focuses on strengthening reading skills for emergent and beginning readers. The program, which kicked off during fall semester 2012, is sponsored by the Emory & Henry Tutoring Program and the Glade Spring Library, a branch of the Washington County Public Library.
After participating as a tutor for three years with the Emory & Henry Tutoring Program it seemed only natural for Chen, who was a senior, to take the next step and design and implement a new Saturday reading program for children in the Glade Spring community. Utilizing a new Student Development Model designed by the Appalachian Center for Community Service, Chen was in charge of recruiting volunteers, facilitating tutoring sessions, and planning weekly programs for the children.
The Student Development Model provides a structure for students and community members to build relationships of trust through their experiences working together. As students move through the development model, they have opportunities to lead, advocate, teach and learn while immersing themselves in issues facing communities.
Chen, who also has served with the children’s department at Smyth-Bland Regional Library in Marion, said her experience at her hometown library offered her the direction she needed to design the new children’s program in Glade Spring. “I realize through my work at the Marion library that reading is one of the greatest struggles for children. I wanted to create a program to help students become better readers and to learn to enjoy reading.”
Chen incorporated craft activities into each Saturday meeting. “In order for students to learn to love reading, we have to let them express their imaginations outside of books. That’s why a large part of our programming is spent making crafts that relate to the books we read.”
Alaina Zitzmann, a rising sophomore from Warrenton, Va., assisted Chen during spring semester to help satisfy service hours for the AmeriCorps program. Since Chen graduated from the College in May, Zitzmann will assume responsibilities for the program in the fall.
“Sustainability is very important for a program like this one. A program’s impact is not always felt immediately; it requires nurturing,” said Chen.
To learn more about the Saturday Reading Buddies program, contact Carolyn Wilson, coordinator of the Emory & Henry Tutoring Program, at (276) 944-6877, or firstname.lastname@example.org.