Community Reading Buddies (CRB) 2015 is here!

The program has begun! Please check the Master Schedule here to ensure you are signed up for the right days. We make efforts to ensure that each preschool “buddy” is matched with a Youth Mentor, one-on-one, so be sure to alert us at if our Master Schedule needs updating.

Feel free to request extra shifts on the days you see they are needed!

Master Schedule

We had a great first week. Check out these photos from Highland and Emerson where Youth Mentors jumped right in, got buddies interacting with books, and employed strategies for working with English Language Learners!:


Whether you are a multi-year veteran or brand new to reading with preschoolers, we would love to have you in the program. CRB’s summer program will run for eight weeks in 2015, from June 15th to August 7th.  Commit to work a minimum of two, 2-hour sessions per week, for three total weeks. (See below for locations and times.) Learn more and sign up by clicking here: 


We will be working in five classrooms at two early education sites this summer:

Highland CDC – 1322 86th Avenue, Oakland CA, 94621
Emerson CDC – 4801 Lawton Ave, Oakland CA, 94609

Highland CDC has multiple classrooms. There are 5 classrooms in all, and each one has two sessions per week (designated as “day 1″ and “day 2″) . Scheduling is flexible – see sign up page for details.

CRB 2015 Map April 30

CRB 2105 schedule revised


About Reading Buddies and the “achievement gap”

In Alameda County, nearly 70% of low-income youth are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd  grade.1 Worse still, the research now clearly confirms that once behind, it is very difficult to catch up. In fact, low-income students who don’t read proficiently by 3rd grade are six times more likely to leave school without a diploma when compared to non-poor proficient readers.2 It turns out that the “achievement gap” opens up well before kindergarten, widens from there, and is rooted squarely in early reading skill disparities. 3 crb 2014

But there is good news! If you close the gap before Kindergarten, it’s just as likely to stay closed, no matter who you are working with. We at Aspire Education Project are closing the gap by building a love of reading in underprivileged preschoolers, through the Community Reading Buddies program (CRB). And we do it by utilizing the untapped vitality and brilliance of the East Bay’s youth, grades 7-12. According to recent longitudinal studies, building reading skills early through one-on-one work can flip the dire statistics upside-down. “In fact, 89 percent of students in poverty who did read on level by 3rd grade graduated on time, statistically no different from the students who never experienced poverty…” 4

Community Reading Buddies has run for 20 years. The program was started in 1994 by Nancy McKee-Jolda, a former Aspire board member and Piedmont, CA educator. In 2005 she handed operation of the program over to Aspire, and we have been growing it to reach more underserved preschoolers ever since. CRB exemplifies Aspire’s integrated approach to community learning. 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, using a  curriculum  developed by our expert staff. 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 returning mentors take on leadership roles, helping peers be better coaches.

crb 2014 2Reading Buddies is about transferring knowledge in multiple directions. Preschoolers learn to read, teens learn to teach,  and everyone  learns  more about our greater  East  Bay  community. The success of this program can be seen in its longevity, the large pool of participating schools (46), high return rate of former participants (20%), and the enthusiastic support  it  receives  from  parents  and teachers. This year, we will run the program in four different classrooms in Oakland, reaching 80 preschoolers twice per week. We plan to eventually expand the program to run year-round, but as always, our work flourishes with community support.

It has been positively excellent because he looks forward to seeing his Reading Buddies every week, and he knows what Friday means – he never wants to miss a Friday at school. He already had a love for books… but this has helped to improve and totally enhance. He’s more into reading on his own, whereas before he always wanted you to read to him. Now he takes initiative with books.”

-Preschool Parent​, Emerson Child Development center

1 California Department of Education, Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Results March 2015)

2 Study: Children’s Academic Future Decided by Grade 3. (Accessed April 2015) “Early Warning Confirmed: A Research Update on Third Grade Reading.” Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011.  (Accessed March 2015)

3 “The origins of well-developed conventional literacy skills are found very early in children’s educational experience.” National Early Literacy Panel, 2008 p. 68. “Children who enter school behind their peers often stay behind” (National Early Literacy Panel 2009Pew Charitable Trust 2005).

4 ” Study: Third Grade Reading Predicts Later High School Graduation” (Accessed March 2015).

Community Reading Buddies runs on community support.

Support from the community is vital to the success and expansion of CRB. Your donation will helps ensure that we can continue improving literacy and opportunity for young children in the East Bay. This program does not run without community support.

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