Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Buddies help literacy

Due to its success a Benalla reading program will be extended to more schools across the district.

MONIQUE FREER February 6, 2014 12:00am

Helping hand: Reading buddy Don Varcoe (right) and former Benalla P-12 College student Emma Tolliday.

A Benalla reading program will be extended to more schools across the district after evaluation found it was improving students’ literacy.

The Reading Buddies program — a partnership between Tomorrow:Today Foundation and Benalla P-12 College — began in 2011 at the college’s Avon St campus.

It provides early intervention for identified students in Prep, Grade 1 and 2, helping students before they fall behind and begin to lose confidence in their literacy abilities.

An evaluation by University of Melbourne last year found that many of the young students involved in the program had achieved significant growth in literacy levels and academic confidence.

‘‘Benalla can be rightfully excited about the positive results that the program is achieving,’’ Tomorrow:Today Foundation student wellbeing co-ordinator Cathy Hair said.

‘‘One of the goals of Tomorrow:Today Foundation is to measurably improve Benalla children’s literacy and numeracy levels.’’

The program involves volunteer reading buddies coming to the school at regular times each week to spend time reading, writing and listening with their young charges.

Benalla P-12 College Avon St campus program co-ordinator Tannis Brooks said the personal connection between an adult volunteer and the student was as valuable as the academic support they offered.

‘‘The children look forward to the days their reading buddies come, and establish a special relationship with them,’’ Ms Brooks said.

Every reading buddy is matched to just one student, enabling the student to receive one-on-one attention and assistance.

Tomorrow:Today Foundation sources and supports local community volunteers and Benalla P-12 College co-ordinates the delivery of the program, providing training for the volunteer buddies.

In 2013, the program was extended to St Joseph’s Primary School and this year it will be expanded again to include Benalla P-12 College’s Waller St campus.

‘‘We have an amazing group of volunteers already donating their time and talents,’’ Ms Hair said.

‘‘Expanding the program to the Waller St campus means a significant number of new buddies will need to be recruited.

‘‘We are appealing to people in the Benalla community who want to make a difference in the lives of young students to come and assist with the program.’’

For more information about the Reading Buddies Program or how to become a volunteer phone Sabine Smyth or Cathy Hair on 57621211.

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