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

cdc-map

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 crb@aspireeducation.org

Click here to send us an email.

About Community Reading Buddies

In Oakland, only one in three low-income children enter Kindergarten ready for school, and the same proportion are not reading on grade level once in third grade.1 Worse still, the research now confirms that for those who start behind, it is very difficult to catch up.2 Clearly, Oakland’s most vulnerable youth are in need of rich early learning experiences that prepare them to succeed in school. We at Aspire Education Project are committed to providing those key educational supports through the Community Reading Buddies program.

Each summer, over a hundred junior high and high school students volunteer with Community Reading Buddies (CRB) and spend time one-on-one with preschoolers at Child Development Centers in Oakland. The teenage volunteers act as mentors, facilitating the younger children’s language and literacy development through book sharing, activities and play time. Youth Mentors receive training reflecting the latest research on effective practices to support budding literacy in young children.

Experts in early literacy widely agree that one-on-one interactive book reading is a valuable tool for supporting the development of early literacy and language skills.3 According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Early Childhood, “reading with children in their… preschool years is associated with higher language skills at school entry and with childhood literacy acquisition.”4 CRB Mentors not only read books with their Buddies, but also use evidence-based interactive techniques to enrich the reading experience.5 Mentors learn how to:

● Help students understand how print works
● Talk with children during reading to encourage critical thinking and narrative skills
● Train students to recognize the sounds that make up words
● Develop their Buddies’ alphabet knowledge

Current research also points to the crucial importance of oral language skills in students’ later literacy development.6 For this reason, Youth Mentors receive specific training in how to nurture their young Buddies’ developing conversation skills. Mentors use multiple elements of highly effective oral language instruction: they engage children in conversation, use unknown vocabulary words, take turns listening and responding to what children are saying, and use open-ended questions to make program time more interactive.7 This work occurs during both reading and play time, which is taken as an indispensable opportunity for oral language development.

Finally, the one-to-one nature of CRB, with each Buddy receiving two dedicated 90-minute sessions per week from their Mentor, is also proven to be a highly impactful approach. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences’ review of the research, the gold standards for the field include “one-on-one tutoring by qualified tutors for at-risk readers.”8 From its beginning over twenty-one years ago, CRB has prioritized providing that one-to-one, skill-building experience to the Oakland children it serves. Community Reading Buddies transfers knowledge in multiple directions—the Buddies improve their early literacy and language skills, the Youth Mentors learn effective teaching practices, and everyone learns more about each other and the greater East Bay community.

[1] Oakland Achieves Report 2016 https://oaklandachieves.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/oaklandachievesreport2016_finalsmaller.pdf

[2] “Early Warning Confirmed: A Research Update on Third Grade Reading.” Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011. http://www.aecf.org/m/resourcedoc/aecf-EarlyWarningConfirmedExecSummary-2013.pdf.

“The origins of well-developed conventional literacy skills are found very early in children’s educational experience.” National Early Literacy Panel, 2008 p. 68. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NELPReport09.pdf

“Children who enter school behind their peers often stay behind.” Pew Charitable Trust, 2005. http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/fact-sheets/2005/06/15/why-all-children-benefit-from-prek

[3] Kenneth Rainin Foundation & NORC at the University of Chicago (2016). “Every Oakland Child Ready for Kindergarten.” http://krfoundation.org/krf/site-content/uploads/2016/08/SchoolReadinessForChildren_RaininFoundation_NORC.pdf

National Institute for Literacy (2009). Early Beginnings: Early Literacy Knowledge and Instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute for Literacy. https://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/NELPEarlyBeginnings09.pdf

[4] Council on Early Childhood (2104, June 23). “Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice.” Pediatrics, http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/06/19/peds.2014-1384

[5] Christie, J. F., Richgels, D. J. & Roskos, K. A. (2003, March).“The Essentials of Early Literacy Instruction.” 58(2), Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 52-60.

[6] Kenneth Rainin Foundation (2016)

Christie et al. (2003)

[7] Bond, M., Wasik, B.A. (2001, Jun). “Beyond the pages of a book: Interactive book reading and language development in preschool classrooms.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 243-250.

Christie, et al. (2003)

[8] Institute of Education Sciences (2003). Identifying and implementing educational practices supported by rigorous evidence: A user-friendly guide. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 3.


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.

You!

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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