“We did Book Buddies a while back and that included elementary school kids and volunteers [reading] and it was successful for a while, but one program that was really successful was a pre-K version of that,” Thomas Shalin, youth services coordinator for the library, said. “... When STARS [Pre-K] was still together and all of the pre-K classes were in the same building, a parent coordinator over there had a Book Buddies program where she would promote it in-house and the families and pre-K kids would come to the library and be read to and they would get a free book or books to take home.
“Since STARS is spread now all over the county, we wanted to try to keep that idea and that core program together so we’re working on that.”
To help facilitate the program, the library received a $2,500 early childhood grant from Target to purchase the give-away books for the program.
“For now it’s going to be once a month — the last Thursday of the month — and the kids can come and be read to and then they get a free book of their choice to take home afterwards,” Shalin said.
He said the program is seeking teen volunteers, but others are welcome to apply.
“We’re ideally looking for teens because we know they need to get volunteer hours and this is kind of a fun way to do that and to also bond with a younger child,” Shalin said. “I know [younger children] really look up to the older kids so to sit with them and hear stories from them is great.”
He said an orientation session for volunteers likely will take place before this month’s event.
“What [Book Buddies] really does is prepare them more for school and to use the library and to know the library is there as a resource,” Shalin said. “... We want to make sure families know the library is here and that kids can get print materials in the home because a lot of times it is hard to get print materials, they’re expensive and a key to kids succeeding in school is the access to a level of proper reading materials in the home.”
He continued, “They can check [books] out here for free, but they can also take books home to keep that are on their level that they can read over and over again to practice their reading and know how words fit together and things like that.”
An application for volunteers can be found online, www.bartowlibrary.org. The first program will be held Jan. 30. For more information, contact Shalin, 770-382-4203.