Reading Buddies: La Jolla Library program helps kids avoid ‘the summer slide’

Although La Jolla’s beaches may be the perfect place to lay out with a good book this summer, the La Jolla Library has a new program for young readers that makes it worthwhile to stay inside.

The library launched a Reading Buddies program June 18, which will continue 4 p.m. Mondays through July 30 at 7555 Draper Ave. Through the free program, teen volunteers read aloud with younger children to foster confidence in literacy and to encourage summer reading. Participation is first-come, first served and no registration is required.

“Research shows that school-age children can lose several months’ worth of reading skills if they don’t read over summer break,” explained Angie Stava, youth services librarian. “This phenomenon even has a name — the summer slide. Reading Buddies is a strategy to encourage children to exercise their reading skills during the summer and have fun at the same time. These children are learning to read, are having trouble reading, or just want to read with a teen and aren’t reading on their own yet.”

She added: “Reading aloud with someone inherently encourages dialogue about what a child is reading and can lead to discussions about how the book relates to the child, their life experiences, likes and dislikes, and how they think about their world. It’s also a meaningful way for children to connect with teen role models who want to make a difference.”

Libraries across the country have similar programs, and some schools do, too. In the La Jolla program, hand-selected books for all ages are available on a table in the youth area and library staff is on hand to pair up volunteers and children, and also help them find a great book.

The La Jolla pool of teen volunteers adds extra oomph to the program.

For example, 16-year-old La Jolla High student Abby Martin, has a voice made for reading. She was the voice of antagonist plant Audrey II in last year’s school production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” and has an expressive, animated personality to boot.

“I’ll try to tone it down, but I’ll hopefully bring something fun to this program,” she said, laughing. “I loved reading as a child and still do, and I like reading out loud. Plus, I come to this library a lot. I want to help the library and also share my love of reading with others.”

Similarly, incoming La Jolla High freshman Alex Dinofia, 14, said she hopes to foster a year-round appreciation of reading in children.

“I hope the participants learn that reading isn’t always a chore, and that if you find something you like, it can be really fun to read, instead of reading just for school,” she said. “I’m not a crazy reader, but I almost always have a book with me. I normally read mystery or dystopian books, like the ‘Hunger Games.’ ”

With her little brother on hand (to read with a different buddy), Alex said she also likes to volunteer in efforts that involve children.

Also drawn in because it’s a chance to volunteer, Bishop’s School student and National Charity League member Elizabeth Stuart-Chaffoo, 16, said this program is “close to my home and close to my heart” because she lives in The Village and reads to her siblings.

She explained: “Two (of my siblings) just finished kindergarten and one is going into preschool, so they are transitioning from not knowing how to read at all, to working on pictures, and then early chapter books. I couldn’t wait to sign up for this program. Literacy is really important. It’s not something you might use later on in life, it’s a skill you will use later in life.”

— Reading Buddies continues 4 p.m. Mondays through July 30 at La Jolla Library, 7555 Draper Ave. Free. (858) 552-1657. lajollalibrary.org

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