Community Reading Buddies

Community Reading Buddies pairs teenage mentors with pre-K - 3rd grade learners, building literacy and community in tandem.

Each summer, over one hundred and forty junior high and high school students volunteer to spend time reading one-on-one with preschoolers from Child Development Centers in the East Bay.

Forty to fifty volunteers visit Oakland’s preschools every day, and lead their younger “buddies” through an eight-week literacy and school readiness curriculum.

Community Reading Buddies Photo Gallery

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2016 Family Reading Celebrations

The kids will tell you – “It’s a PARTY.” But this is no ordinary bash – this is for literacy. At Aspire and Tandem’s Family Reading Celebrations this year, the book-fun is on: playing alphabet memory games, making...

Community Reading Buddies 2017 Information

Reading Buddies 2017 is coming soon!

We will be working in six to seven classrooms at four preschool sites this summer:

Highland CDC – 1322 86th Avenue, Oakland, CA 94621

Emerson CDC – 4801 Lawton Avenue, Oakland, CA 94609

United Nation CDC – 1025 4th Avenue, Oakland, CA 94606

Laurel CDC – 3825 California Street, Oakland, CA 94619


If you woud like to join our 2017 program, you must:

  • Be at least an incoming seventh grader and at most an incoming high school senior in the fall of 2017
  • Commit to work a minimum of six sessions total
  • Attend a mandatory volunteer training
  • Be able to work responsibly with children, staff and peers
  • Submit a signed Parental Permission Form
  • Call or email our office to get set up

Interested in participating?
Think you might like to volunteer for Reading Buddies 2017? You don’t have to commit right now, but enter your info here and we’ll keep you updated on next summer’s program and notify you when the official sign up begins:

Any questions?

Please just call the Reading Buddies line at (510) 550-5591. (Note, this is different than Aspire’s main line). Or email us at

Click here to send us an email.

About Community Reading Buddies

In Alameda County, nearly 70% of low-income youth are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade.(1) We at Aspire Education Project are committed to combatting this epidemic by building a love of reading in preschoolers through the Community Reading Buddies program.Community Reading Buddies was started in 1994 by Nancy McKee-Jolda, an AEP board member. In 2006 she handed operation of the program over to AEP, and CRB has been growing ever since. CRB exemplifies Aspire’s integrated approach to community learning.crb_highland_jul-30-14_07

Each summer, over a hundred junior high and high school students volunteer to spend time reading one-on-one with preschoolers from Child Development Centers in the East Bay.The volunteers lead reading activities and games, weaving in academic content from a variety of topics, including science, music, and art. The teenage volunteers act as mentors and “buddies” for their younger charges. At the same time, the volunteers learn from the children they are teaching: it is an opportunity for the junior high and high school mentors to interact with neighbors from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. The mentors are provided with training in pedagogy and exposed to the challenges and rewards of teaching. Some mentors may also choose to take on leadership roles, helping to structure activities and guide fellow mentors.

Community Reading Buddies is about transferring knowledge in multiple directions—the “students” improve their language skills, the “teachers” learn to teach, and everyone learns more about the greater East Bay community. The success of this program can be seen in its longevity, the high return rate of former participants, and the broad support it receives from parents and teachers. We plan to eventually expand the program to run year-round.

(1)Data Source: California Department of Education, Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results, (Accessed March 2013).

Donors and Partners

Rogers Family Foundation

The Rogers Family Foundation is committed to improving educational opportunity and supporting organizations that align themselves in improving the quality of education amongst Oakland students. One of the three key initiatives set by the foundation in order to close the achievement gap is investing in early literacy for children of low-income families.

Western Digital Foundation

Western Digital Foundation aims to respond to the needs of the communities in which the company operates in, as well as promote the philanthropic vision of the Western Digital Corporation. The current focus area for the Western Digital Foundation include education, basic needs, and civic engagement within the community.

West Davis & Bergard Foundation

A new foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area supporting Community Reading Buddies with purchases of books and funding curricula.


Community Reading Buddies could not run without the support of volunteers, youth mentors, and the families that donate generously to meet the basic costs of the program. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated to sustain the needs of the program. You can donate here!

Tandem Partners in Early Learning

Tandem Partners in Early Learning is rooted in the belief that high-quality early learning and strong family bonds can break the cycle of poverty and build brighter futures for children. We are grateful to partner with Tandem for volunteer training and the program’s Family Reading Celebrations, such as the one pictured below.

Clorox Corporation Foundation

The Clorox Company Foundation provides grants to local programs in Oakland, CA that contribute to youth and education development. Our Youth Mentors are given support by the foundation for leadership development in addition to improving the academic performance of children, especially in literacy. Together we strive to promote positive relationships among youth from diverse cultural and ethnic groups.

Oakland Unified School District, Early Childhood Education

We are grateful to have the support of the Oakland Unified School District through the Department of Early Childhood Education. Our 21 years of service to Oakland’s preschools is a testament to the enduring commitment to provide the children and families of Oakland the foundation for a high-quality education. In partnership, we will continue to develop and provide resources to promote early literacy among Oakland youth.

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