Imagine you are three years old.  You are in pre-school class, playing with your friends.  The teacher hands you a brown envelope that is ADDRESSED TO YOU.  In it is a book that is about a thing you like, and it has YOUR NAME in it.  The teacher reads the book to the class, and then you get to take the book home.  It is YOURS.  It is the FIRST BOOK you have ever owned.  That is what it is like to be a pre-school student with a Literacy Buddy.
Ideally, children start learning in the home with parent-led activities, especially book reading, bed time stories and coloring books.  Yet for many children these activities do not begin until pre-school.  You may have noticed a sign in Barnes and Noble at holiday time.  It said that many children do not have books in their home.  This is important because a lack of age-appropriate books in a child’s home has been found to be an indicator that the child may not be ready to learn when beginning kindergarten.
The Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County (ELC) seeks to ensure that children enter kindergarten ready to learn.  They have several approaches, one of which is their pre-school Literacy Buddy Program.
The Literacy Buddy program pairs pre-school children with adults.  It’s like pen pals.  The children make a drawing showing a book subject - for example “a book about cars.”  With teacher’s help the request is sent to the child’s “buddy.”  The buddy buys an age appropriate book about cars, writes a note to the child, adds a book plate with the child’s name to the book, and puts the book with the letter in an envelope addressed to the child at their pre-school.  For buddies in our Club, Matt Anderson collects the envelopes and delivers them to the ELC for distribution.
Buddies do this three times a year, so by the end of the year, involved children have at least three books of their own.  The Siesta Key Kiwanis Club has 15 buddies supporting the project.  Matt is both our Club project chair  and an ELC board member. Matt says the Literacy Buddy program helps create excitement for learning.  He also notes that buddies are always needed.  So please talk to Matt about volunteering to be a pre-schooler’s buddy.  You may change a life.
Joy Horne-Jones, Editor
  with Doug & Paula Griffin