Read One Book, Change Two Lives

Krista King-Oaks has worked in public libraries for the past ten years, where she started out as a volunteer tutor and reading buddy while in high school. She is currently the Teen Librarian at the Main Library where among her favorite activities is coordinating the Library’s Teen Advisory Group (T.A.G.) which is responsible for the creation of the Read with a Teen service learning project.

Summer Reading is in full swing at the library and that means books, prizes, and programs for all! Most importantly, summer reading is the key to making learning fun – and not a chore – during those long, hot days away from the classroom. Learning is a year-round process that begins and never ends, even when a child has learned to read.  Regardless of a child’s age, whether they are just starting kindergarten or embarking on the beginning of their senior year of high school, research shows that even reading just a handful of books over the summer months lessens the dreaded “Summer Slump” effect. However, we all know that reading is more fun when you not only get to choose your own books, but when you can share them with a friend – and that is exactly what makes the library’s Read with a Teen program a smash hit!

Read with a Teen has been fighting summer learning loss for students across Boone County  since 2008.  Building over eight weeks throughout June and July, the program partners a teen in  8th – 12th grade with a younger child going into kindergarten – 3rd grade.  Each week, these “reading buddies” come together at the Library to share books, games and activities in both a group and one-on-one setting. Group participation makes up the first half hour and each session is built around a theme, such as superheroes or rhythm and rhyme. In the second half hour, each team spends time together reading and talking about books. Through the sharing of books, games and activities, the teen helps the younger child maintain or build upon reading skills throughout the summer months.  Conversely, the teens establish new relationships in the community while honing leadership qualities and earning service hours. This summer’s program will take place at the Scheben Branch in Union.

BCPL’s Read with a Teen is modeled after another very successful mentoring program known as One to One  an initiative from the Northern Kentucky Education Council. The One to One program trains business and community volunteers to produce measurable, positive results for kindergarten to third grade students who are struggling with reading. The volunteers, or literacy coaches, practice individually with students once a week; in a simple format that emphasizes reading, writing, and building basic skills. Boone County Public Library is a proud One to One partner, allowing several staff members from across the youth services department to participate on an annual basis.

But why does the One to One program, and Read with a Teen, focus on children only in 1st – 3rd grades? Critical research shows that if students are not reading on grade level by the time they reach the third grade, their future success in school and life is dramatically at risk. A report published by the Annie E. Casey foundation, titled “Double Jeopardy”{8E2B6F93-75C6-4AA6-8C6E-CE88945980A9  shows that students who can’t read on grade level by 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate than a child who does read proficiently by that time.RWT photo

Aside from the significant impact and benefits to the younger children in the program, Read with a Teen also provides invaluable lessons to its teen volunteers, most importantly by providing opportunities to gain developmental assets. Created by The Search Institute, the Forty Developmental Assets  provide a guiding framework in the form of a check list of behaviors and personality traits to help teens grow into healthy, compassionate, and civic minded adults. In addition to families and schools, public libraries are a significant place for a teen to safely interact with their community and gain these critical assets. But don’t take it from me – let our teens tell you how they feel about the Library and Read with a Teen!

Ivanka Rainer, a teen new to the program said, “I signed up because I really like working with kids, and I wanted something fun to do over the summer. When I got to the training, I saw a bunch of friends there that I didn’t know were part of the program.”

Mikaila Dvorak, a returning Read with a Teen alumni said of her experience last summer, “I am so thankful for the tutoring opportunity that Read with a Teen gave me. I’m still working with the family and have enjoyed getting to know them better. I would like to be a teacher so this is a great opportunity for me and I have learned a lot about communicating with children in different ways.”

I look forward to hearing the fun stories that are bound to come out of this year’s Read with a Teen program. More so, I cherish seeing the smiles on the faces of all of those involved, as well as the sense of empowerment that arises in that spark when a child learns they can read and that it can be fun. That is a gift that lasts long beyond a summer.


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