Syracuse University’s Office of Institutional Research and Assessment (OIRA) was recently created through a merger of the Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment. The streamlined operation, located at 400 Ostrom Avenue, serves all members…
Give Back in 2024: Volunteer to Be a Book Buddy
Early literacy is paramount to a child’s future success, but recent research [PDF] from The Education Trust-New York shows the state is facing a “literacy crisis that has the potential to limit the future success of students, families, schools and communities.”
This problem is particularly prevalent in communities with the highest concentrations of child poverty, including Syracuse, where only 13% of students demonstrate third grade proficiency rates on state English language arts assessments, according to the data.
A community initiative sponsored by the United Way of Central New York—Book Buddies—is working to reverse these trends within the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) by supporting the early literacy skills of 500 kindergarten through third grade students across five SCSD primary schools: Roberts Pre-K-8 School, Seymour Dual Language Academy, Delaware Primary, STEAM @ Dr. King Elementary and Dr. Weeks Elementary School.
To achieve this goal, Book Buddies is recruiting additional volunteers in the Syracuse community. The time commitment is minimal, requiring just 30-60 minutes once or twice per week to visit one of the participating schools and work with students to build reading skills during their lunch break.
University students, faculty and staff are encouraged to volunteer as they think about how they might like to give back and make a difference in the community in 2024.
“Book Buddies has the potential to have a tremendous impact on children in our community, helping address the critical issue of reading literacy among elementary school students in Syracuse,” says Cydney Johnson ’77, G’96, vice president of community engagement and government relations. “With a small commitment of their time each week, volunteers are able to build meaningful relationships with students in the program and have a lifelong impact on their future trajectory by building literacy and confidence in their reading abilities.”
Eric Kay, senior human resources business partner in the University’s Office of Human Resources, recently began volunteering with Book Buddies. Newer to the Syracuse area, he says it has been an easy, fun and rewarding way to connect with the community.
“The children I’ve been working with seem to enjoy reading—as volunteers, we’re just there to help them become a bit better at it,” Kay says. “A little help goes a long way. Both of the children I’m working with, you can tell there’s that moment when they’re happy they got it right. A little praise and positive feedback help reinforce that they’re making progress.”
Jeffry Comanici ’88, G’23, executive director of post traditional advancement in the College of Professional Studies, says that volunteering with Book Buddies is one of the highlights of his week.
“Spending a short time each week with Spring and Elijah, two students at the Dr. King STEAM School, is an opportunity to experience firsthand the future potential of children,” Comanici says. “Seeing their reading ability improve and the self confidence that results from it is energizing and motivates me to do more.”
Undergraduate students in the School of Education also regularly volunteer with the Book Buddies program, giving pre-service teachers an opportunity to get direct field experience working with K-12 students. Read more about the experiences of students in the inclusive elementary and special education (grades 1-6) program during the spring 2023 semester.
Interested in learning more? Check out the video below, visit cnybookbuddies.org or visit the volunteer sign-up form to get started right away! If you prefer to monetarily support the program, you can also make a donation to the United Way.