Become a Book Buddy: New virtual program helping kids become confident readers

How to apply to program where kids read to volunteers over the phone or virtually

ROANOKE, Va. – A Roanoke non-profit is determined to help kids build reading skills regardless of what’s happening in the world around them.

As an after-school program, Kids Soar focuses on ending the cycle of poverty through literacy education.

When the pandemic started back in March, Kids Soar not only became a food pantry for the community, it created a new program, Book Buddies.

Staff match vetted volunteers with registered kids. Then, once a week, the child reads to their book buddy via phone, Zoom, Facetime or even Facebook, whatever works for the family and volunteer. The volunteer can have the same book or they can just listen.

“We have the child read the books. The volunteer just needs to listen and if the child stumbles over words then they have them spell it to them but it’s gone further than that,” said Kids Soar executive director, Candace Hess.

Hess told 10 News this program has evolved and is impacting young readers in ways they weren’t expecting.

The program only requires the book buddies to connect for a half hour once a week, but some of the buddies are creating true bonds.

Some are now reading three times a week for almost an hour with their buddy, one match even subscribed to an educational magazine together to have more material they can read.

“Children who had a hard time reading in person have blossomed because they’re able to read without someone standing over them or the expectation that they need to do that and so now we have children who were reading early readers moved on to chapter books,” said Hess.

There are about 30 kids signed up for the Book Buddy program but Kids Soar is looking to reach more young readers. To get your child signed up or to become a volunteer, click here.

Hess mentioned the success of this program has inspired them to continue this even when students are able to return.

For more information on Kids Soar and their new location, visit its website.

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