Submitted by Liz Bean, Coordinator of Volunteer Services
Labels on food packages. Emails from your child’s school. The newspaper. Social media…the list goes on. These are examples of items in our everyday lives that require us to read. Imagine living in a new country, with a new language and new culture and having this as a daily challenge. It might feel overwhelming… daunting. During these often challenging times of transition and change, receiving extra support can make all the difference. Fortunately, ICA volunteers are always there with a smile to lend a helping hand.
To assist newcomers to Canada along their reading paths, ICA Volunteer Services worked closely with ICA English language class teachers to launch a Reading Buddy pilot project in January 2018. The purpose of this program is three-fold: afford adult language learners an opportunity to develop their reading skills, help boost learners’ confidence, and make a community connection by interacting with volunteers in Greater Victoria. From January to March, volunteers attended beginner-level English classes on a weekly basis. Each week, teachers provided learners with different books from which to choose.
Volunteers joined learners in small reading circles, coaching students while they read. However, most importantly, volunteers brought to the circles the care, kindness, and enthusiasm necessary to create a successful learning space. There was always lots of laughter, and where there is laughter, there is learning!
The program was a big hit with students, teachers, and volunteers! Here’s what some of our volunteers had to say:
“What a joy to be able to learn and laugh together! I am energized to share my skills, to see that they make a difference, and to experience such easy interaction with my reading partners.” – Marjie
“The Reading Buddy program is a lot of fun for both the students and volunteers! It provides an effective means for the students to practice their reading skills in small groups. The volunteers benefit too as it’s a great way to engage and converse with the diverse student population of ICA. Everyone wins!” – Corie
“What I enjoy most is when a student comes across a new word and wants to know its meaning, and then writes in down to make it her own.” – Jeannette
The Reading Buddy Program is certainly about reading, skill building, and gaining confidence, but it’s also about building bridges between newcomer immigrants and the wider community in Greater Victoria. Due to the success of the pilot, we plan to run the program again.
Thank you to our amazing and dedicated volunteers for making this opportunity possible! It couldn’t be done without you!