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It’s for you: Temple Israel volunteers call young reading buddies

Volunteers, students and family members met for dinner to launch the telephone reading buddies program.
Volunteers, students and family members met for dinner to launch the telephone reading buddies program. Courtesy of Huntingtowne Farms

Volunteers from Temple Israel have been phoning it in with Huntingtowne Farms students this summer – and that’s not an insult.

They’re experimenting with a summer reading program that works around the unpredictable schedules of young readers and adult volunteers. The goal is to make sure children who can’t afford any summer slip in reading skills have an extra adult checking in and reading with them.

Because meeting in person can be a challenge, they’re doing it by phone.

Boosting elementary school reading skills is a huge push throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Huntingtowne Farms, which has a high level of poverty despite its location in the South Park area, has a longstanding partnership with the temple.

It started with four match-ups, though Principal Carolyn Rodd would like to see every rising third-grader who’s below grade level in reading have a phone buddy eventually.

It’s a labor-intensive effort. Volunteers meet with parents or guardians; no one wants a stranger calling their kids, and the adults have to act as a go-between for the calls. Teacher Gina Pecora selected books like “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile” and “Commander Toad and the Voyage Home” targeted to each child’s reading level. She also coaches volunteers on how to do an over-the-phone read-aloud and what kind of questions to ask.

Meshing schedules can still be a challenge. Susan Rabinovich, Temple Israel’s volunteer coordinator, had hoped to have a reading buddy, but the family didn’t make it to proposed meetings. “Sometimes these families’ lives are so fragile that anything can put a bump in the road,” she said.

“I’m not even positive it’s going to work,” Rabinovich said, “but I think it might.”

Ann Doss Helms: 704-358-5033, @anndosshelms

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