“By the end of this school year, an estimated total of one million books will have been donated to early childhood learners across Wisconsin through programs like our Reading Buddy Program here in Merrill,” said Betty Ann Tubbin
Take a little step back in time to the year 1997 when Betty Ann Tubbin, Harry Tubbin and their friends started something that would forever change the lives of children who attend Merrill schools. For some of our students, the first story that came to life was probably read to him/her by one of the Reading Buddy volunteers. These volunteers come from many different pathways in our community, yet all share the same common goal; they want to build a stronger foundation for literacy in our community and believe that starts with our youngest learners. The majority of these readers are retired individuals choosing to continue to contribute to the community as a reading buddy.
“Each month, usually on the second Tuesday, these reading angels descend upon our building, take off their jackets and assemble with a small group of preschool-aged learners to share a story,” said Jill Seaman, Merrill Area Public Schools Director of Head Start/4K/Early Childhood. “The children get very excited for these special friends that come to share a story and do a story-based activity with them. They also know they will be taking their own copy of the book home to share with their own family. As a special sprinkle of kindness, our students receive a Christmas gift of hand-knitted, mittens to keep their little hands warm in the winter months. These anonymous knitters must know how many mittens get misplaced and that every pair gets good use.”
Lincoln County Association for Home and Community Education is comprised of many generous community donors. A sticker indicating these donors is in the front of each book read to the students and we tremendously appreciate their investment. Each one of those stickers is put in the books by Sue and Kent Johnson, before they deliver the books to school for the Reading Buddy Days. All books are selected and ordered through our program assistant in collaboration with Sue. This year each student will be receiving a total of 12 books of their own to enjoy.
“The impact of these volunteer efforts and contributions is hard to fathom as it reaches far into the future,” Seaman said. “In fact, we have some data to share that demonstrates just one tangible goal of every community, an increased graduation rate. The graduation rate for students who attended Pine River School for Young Learners for the period of years after Reading Buddies surpasses the years before it began. This, along with the joy of reading these individuals bring, is priceless.”