HELENA — In the Spring of 2024, the Lewis and Clark Literacy Council’s Book Pals program returns to elementary schools. Book pals are volunteers who spend one day a week, from 8 to 8:30 a.m., reading books to elementary students before school.
“They matched up with a student who might be struggling just a little bit with reading,” said Tracie Shepherd, the Executive Director of the Lewis and Clark Literacy Council. “Just use that extra little boost, and the volunteers read with them, go over vocabulary. Some great relationships are built there.”
Book Pals was started in 2018, first in Broadwater Elementary School, before expanding into several others.
When the pandemic caused schools to close, the program could not continue.
Recently librarians have been reaching out to the Literacy Council asking if they would be starting the program back up.
The council is currently in desperate need of volunteers.
The more volunteers they have the more schools and students they can help.
The Lewis & Clark Literacy Council helps adults acquire reading, writing, English language, workforce, and life skills.
They believe if they help young children…their literacy skills will be improved as an adult.
“It’s so critical that kids learn to read and create that love of books. By third grade, if they haven’t got a good grasp of phonics and just reading skills in general, it does make the rest of their school career more difficult. So, if we can develop that ability and love of books at an early age, it’s so beneficial,” Shepherd said.
Not only did this program help improve the skills of children, but also helped to improve their relationship to school.
“Once we got started, kids came to school all excited to read,” said Shepherd. “They got to choose their books, they sat with their volunteer, they didn’t read the whole time. To be honest with you a lot of conversation goes on. The kids are excited to have a grown-up buddy. Even attendance for a lot of the kids improved.”
If you want to learn more about the program or volunteer to read with an elementary school student visit lcliteracy.org.