Park City Credit Union CEO Val Mindak presents a donation check to Lincoln County Home & Community Education Association’s Reading Buddies Coordinator, Betty Ann Tubbin, for the Merrill Reading Buddies program. Reading Buddies, a local program designed to promote early exposure to books and reading, uses donations to purchase books that are first read by volunteers to children at MAPS Head Start and Parkside Preschool and then given to the youngsters to take home
Park City Credit Union CEO Val Mindak presents a donation check to Lincoln County Home & Community Education Association’s Reading Buddies Coordinator, Betty Ann Tubbin, for the Merrill Reading Buddies program. Reading Buddies, a local program designed to promote early exposure to books and reading, uses donations to purchase books that are first read by volunteers to children at MAPS Head Start and Parkside Preschool and then given to the youngsters to take home
Thanks to generous donations and volunteer readers, Merrill’s Reading Buddies program recently completed its 16th successful year serving young readers enrolled in MAPS Head Start and Parkside Preschool.
Monthly, throughout the school year, over 50 Reading Buddies volunteers first read a book to small groups of youngsters, then presented each of the future readers with his or her personal copy of the book.
“Reading to these children and then being able to give them the book is a great feeling for everyone involved with the program,” stated Reading Buddies volunteer and former teacher, Eileen Richardson. That book could then be taken home and shared with family members. Accompanying the book are suggestions for family use of the book.
Sue Johnson, Reading Buddies coordinator, sees a real value in getting these books into the hands of emerging readers. 
“We’ve heard from many parents that these books have often triggered reading interest not only on the part of the child, but also helped generate reading as a family activity. Whenever you see that kind of reading enthusiasm in a family, you know the outcome is a real positive. It all starts, though, with a book and a volunteer,” commented Johnson.
This year the volunteers helped distribute approximately 150 books each month for a total of more than 1,500 books now circulating in Merrill families. Since its beginning, Reading Buddies (formerly known as Bookworms) has distributed over 14,000 books. In years when fundraising has been particularly successful, the program even provides a “bonus” book.
No matter how many books are handed out between October and May, the goal for the program remains the same. By promoting reading at an early age, Reading Buddies recognizes the connection between literacy and later success.
As Johnson puts it, “Numerous studies have shown that the more exposure a child has to the written word, the greater the chances are for success later in life. Through Reading Buddies we try to encourage a very simple practice related to our goal. Parents, read to your children.”
To ensure that success, Reading Buddies has relied upon donations obtained from community businesses and individuals. That’s not always an easy task, according to Johnson.
“In today’s economy, some of our funding sources disappeared and yet others stepped up to the plate. So far we have been able to stay on track. However, we’re always looking to add donations of any size from businesses, organizations and individuals. We’d like to thank everyone who has contributed,” stated Johnson, “and hope that they and others will join us in helping fund this important program in the upcoming years.”
Donors for the 2014-15 year include: Park City Credit Union, Merrill Lions Club, Optimist Club of Merrill, Church Mutual, Chapter AA PEO Sisterhood and members (Kathryn Spencer, Maggie Marquis, Carol Weber, Laurie Johnston and Kathalyn Smith), Beta Sigma Phi Council, Merrill Rotary Club, Joseph & Jennifer Heitz, The Study Class, Lincoln Community Bank, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Social Topics Club, Capt. Raymond & Verna Schwartz in memory of Sarah Schwartz, MAPS Pine River School for Young Learners and Parkside Preschool.