The Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) invites you to participate in our signature program Reading Buddies. Elementary teachers partner with RSVP to offer this volunteer opportunity. Volunteers and students read together weekly for 30 minutes with over 100 students participating in Pierre, Fort Pierre and Blunt elementary schools.

Reading Buddies will match volunteers and students to spend time together reading. The benefits for both students and volunteers are endless. Students receive undivided attention from a senior volunteer for 30 minutes weekly as they read, laugh, talk and share their thoughts about the story. The volunteers read with first graders at all schools, except Stanley County, which is for third graders.

The idea is to have one-on-one participation, so each child has a reading buddy. Since reading abilities vary, volunteers help students where they are at, according to their reading level.

Students gain a lot from this. I believe students benefit when someone helps them with the words they are not familiar with and from the positive feedback our volunteers provide as they read their favorite books together. The students choose the book, and often it is one they really enjoy,” she said. There are other benefits, too. Students look forward to Reading Buddies. They eagerly await reading buddy day and anxiously look for their reading buddy to arrive. They carefully select their favorite books to read. It is so heartwarming to watch the students and seniors when they connect to spend time together.

Some of the volunteers have said that they have lifelong friendships with the person they read with. They’ll be at the grocery store and they’ll run into one of their reading buddies. And they remember each other, always. RSVP volunteers have participated in Reading Buddies for 21 years. Personally, I love to see the smiles on our students and volunteers as they gather to meet and read. I recall one student as he was standing in line calling out, ‘See you next week!’

The goal is a one-on-one match between students and reading buddies. Reading dates are:

• Buchanan Elementary, Mondays, 12:45 to 1:15 p.m., beginning Sep 16.

• Kennedy Elementary, Tuesdays, 1:45 to 2:15 p.m., beginning Sep 17.

• Pierre Indian Learning Center, Thursdays, 10 to 10:30 a.m., begins Sep 19.

• Blunt Elementary, the first Monday of each month, 2:30 to 3:00 p.m., beginning Sep 9.

• Stanley County, Wednesdays, 12:30 to 1 p.m., beginning Oct 2.

Although the event is sponsored by the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, a person does not need to be a senior to participate in Reading Buddies. Also, if you feel you cannot commit to a weekly event, you can sign up as a substitute. “But once you read, you will want to make it a weekly event on your calendar,”

Royer added. Reading buddies is not held on school holidays or during inclement weather. To participate, call Royer at 224-3337 or email teri.royer@avera.org .

“Reading Buddies, I just wanted to take a moment and thank you all, Barb, Bonnie, Bruce, Carol, Connie, Dale, Deon, Ed, Florence, Frank, Gary, Geraldine, Janet, Jim, LeRoy, Linda(s), Norm, Peggy and Teri, for all that you do. I have never seen my students so LOVED and cared for like I have this year. They genuinely look forward to reading buddies every week. I just feel you needed to know just how much of an impact you all have had already this year. These students don’t always get that much love and attention when they are home, but they know they are going to get it (and then some!) on Thursdays and it just makes me so happy for them. You all have gone above and beyond and we are all (myself included) so lucky to have you take time out of your busy schedules to come hang out with us on Thursdays! Words cannot express just how thankful I am, and I know my students are. Thank you for showing up and loving my students! It means the world to me!” said Rachel Wellman, PILC first grade teacher.

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