Fuzzy friends from bears and dogs to pigs and frogs arrived at 106 classrooms across Northwest Indiana.
The Reading Buddies program, sponsored by the United Way of Porter County in partnership with the Valparaiso University softball team, helps first- and second-graders on their path to learning to read.
United Way of Porter County President Sharon Kish said local businesses, community members and the VU team helped collect the animals throughout the year for distribution.
“We delivered about 3,000 today and we have classrooms waiting,” she said. “It takes $5 to put a Reading Buddy in a child’s lap.”
Kish said the program helps children develop reading skills at an early age.
“We know that it’s fundamental that children be able to read in these early grades and that sets the bar for them to succeed later on,” she said. “There is something about reading to something that you care about and reading out loud. In the Reading Buddies classrooms, their oral fluency increases by 90 percent from the beginning of the school year to the end.
“It’s a fun program that makes reading fun.”
At Memorial Elementary in Valparaiso, VU softball team members Sam Stewart, Stephanie Moreno, Tarah McShane, Jasmine Ramirez and Mackenzie Buchelt were on hand to help deliver the friends to former teammate Amanda Korb’s first-grade class.
McShane said team members helped organize the animals, stuff and tag bags and load up the truck for delivery.
“We drove this morning from school to school dropping off the buddies. We came here for the big lottery and got to see them open up the bags and get excited,” McShane said.
Korb’s first-graders, along with Beth Keller’s first-grade class, had the opportunity to select the friend they wanted as their numbers were called.
“You get to read to your Reading Buddy. We keep them in the classroom and in the summer, they go home with you,” Korb explained to the first-graders. “Who’s excited and wants their Reading Buddy?”
Memorial Elementary Principal Debra Misecko said the Reading Buddy bond helps build a passion for books.
“Students in Grade 1 are building reading strategies and stamina for reading. The Reading Buddies help make reading a positive and meaningful experience,” she said. “It gives the students incentive to keep reading by sharing the joy of reading with their buddies. It is always more fun to share a story with a buddy.”
Two Men and a Truck of Valparaiso and Crown Point also provided trucks for delivery.
Kish said the process of collecting new stuffed animals continues yearround. Anyone interested in hosting a drive or offering a monetary donation, should contact the United Way of Porter County at (219) 464-3583.
Source: NWI Times