When 12-year-old Jonah Duchesne-Shaw checks the mail, there’s one thing that never fails to brighten his day: a letter from his preschool-aged literacy buddy. Every few months, Jonah receives a letter from his buddy, a 4-year-old preschool student, and the two talk hobbies, interests and, most importantly, books.
Organized through the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County, the Literacy Buddy program pairs people with young children in an effort to teach them not only a love for reading at an early age, but also about important social skills such as communication.
Volunteers such as Jonah get to know their buddy and his or her interests, and then, based on that information, they pick out a book and mail it to the buddy. The buddy reads it at school and lets the volunteer know how they liked it. For Jonah, a seventh-grade home-schooled student, the letters make the effort worthwhile.
“Getting the letter back after we’ve sent the book is great,” he says. “It’s really fun to see what they have to say. They usually love it and say, ‘It was really cool.’”
Jonah first started volunteering for the program last year, at the suggestion of his mother. A book-lover himself, he says the opportunity was perfect for him.
“I just thought it would be really fun to work with young people and get them reading,” he says. “It’s fun; you can read a book and it will take you to another world. There are lots of great stories out there, and it’s fun to learn about them.”
Jonah enjoys learning what he and his buddy have in common, and he likes seeing the students develop as they learn to read and write. In addition to helping the children, Jonah says the experience is rewarding for him, too.
“It really helps give you a sense of accomplishment and a sense of helping people,” he says. “It’s nice because I think you should be helping people in society. It’s really fun, and it’s a good experience.”
BY THE NUMBERS
2 — Number of years Jonah has been volunteering as a Literacy Buddy
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