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MU students volunteer with “Read with Me” program for kids

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MU students volunteer with “Read with Me” program for kids

Photo by Matt Kulling / matthew.kulling@marquette.edu

Photo by Matt Kulling / matthew.kulling@marquette.edu

Photo by Matt Kulling / matthew.kulling@marquette.edu

Photo by Matt Kulling / matthew.kulling@marquette.edu

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This year marks the 25th anniversary of Next Door’s Books for Kids, a program designed to promote literacy by distributing new or gently-used books to kids in the community, regardless of income or education level.

The “Read with Me” program developed out of Books for Kids in 1990. Before it became its own program, “Read with Me” began with volunteers stopping by classrooms to read with kids. Now, there are three time slots per week for volunteers to come in and read to children ages 2-5.

Next Door is an organization that “serves Milwaukee families bounded by Silver Spring Drive to North Avenue, and the Milwaukee River to 76th Street,” according to its website.

“The goal is to provide one-on-one reading ratio to the children, if at all possible. We’re really building the foundation of literary skills for our little ones,” said Pam Edyburn, coordinator of Books for Kids. “This provides another option, another opportunity to learn to love books, be engaged with people in the community and be engrossed with different books we have here in the library.”

Edyburn said her personal goal is to get 45 volunteers per week. Some of those volunteers are Marquette students who are a part of Marquette Volunteer Corps, a semester-long experience that puts students into teams and sends them to certain programs for volunteer work.

Sarah Fox, a sophomore in the College of Nursing, volunteered with Next Door last semester.

“From volunteering through ‘Read with Me’ I learned how important literacy is, and how it is such a significant skill that is often overlooked. Being introduced to reading at a young age is so important for a child’s future development,” Fox said in an email. “Next Door’s ‘Read with Me’ program is making a huge difference in the lives of many Milwaukee children by ensuring that they have a great start in learning.”

Fox also touched on a key aspect for improving literacy: parental encouragement. After each session, the kids choose a book to bring home with them, which Fox said was one of her favorite parts about the program.

“Giving each child a book to keep encourages parents to read to them at home, a vital part of learning,” Fox said in an email. “I grew up being read to by my parents every night, and it is easy to forget that not all children have that opportunity.”

However, students aren’t the only volunteers that stop by Next Door. Edyburn said some corporate volunteers will stop by once or twice a year to read with the children.

“We wouldn’t be able to achieve our mission without our volunteer base. We have such wonderful, committed volunteers,” Edyburn said. “They benefit from the program as much as the kids do. Once they step in the door, they fall in love with it.”

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