Thursday, January 31, 2019

Being a Literacy Buddy

Reading has always been a big part of my life. When I was a kid, I remember my parents encouraging me to go outside and play on the week-ends. And while I did venture out for the occasional game of kickball, I found the world of books much more interesting. So when my friend Jo Ann told me about the Early Learning Coalition's Literacy Buddies Program, I was all in.

The concept behind the program is simple. Three times a year, participants receive a picture from a child that relates to their current interest. I was thrilled when I got this picture of a T-Rex (obviously) from my new buddy Fisher, age 3.

The ball was then in my court to find an age-appropriate book about dinosaurs to send to Fisher. It was a blast to go to the children's section of Barnes and Noble and check out its offerings. Happily, several shelves were dedicated to books about dinosaurs. Who knew?

"Roar" by Michael Paul was my choice. I fell in love with the book's vibrant illustrations of all types of dinosaurs, including the T-Rex. The simple text contains basic facts about dinosaurs. Did you know that some dinosaurs lived solitary lives while others lived in groups?

Having selected my book, the next step was to write a letter to Fisher to send along with it. A quick search of available clip art yielded a picture of a T-Rex that I could drop into my note. (One thing my sister has taught me is to work a theme.)  With that, my package was ready to send off to my new friend. I hope he likes it. I am already eagerly awaiting my next letter, although it will be some time since the program provides for a child to receive only three books each year.

Participating in the Literacy Buddies program prompted me to find out a bit more about the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County. Its mission is "to prepare children for lifelong success through quality early learning." The Coalition serves 4,000 children each year on a budget of $11M. .

The Coalition's work includes management of a Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program that readies four year olds to start school. It administers our community's Look for the Stars child care rating system and provides child care scholarships to local families. And it offers a variety of resources to parents (who are, after all, a child's first teachers).

For more about the Early Learning Coalition's program, click here. Volunteers for the Literacy Buddies program are always needed. Since it's all done by mail, there's no need to live in Sarasota to participate. Join the fun!


  1. I LOVE this idea! I am totally going to sign up for it, and i’m also going to try to find some existing organization in Rochester to develop this program here - we desperately need something like this, since i think Rochester has the dubious distinction of being one of the 3 worst cities with child poverty (if it’s not #1...). And we need more programs like these that don’t require an oppressive commitment on the part of volunteers! Thanks for sharing!

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