SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Bettie Adams, an RSVP volunteer with the Reading Buddies program, says the program has helped her to feel needed and appreciated post-retirement. As a retired teacher, she missed working with children and says of the program, “Children are our future. It’s a positive way to give back to the community.”
Through the Reading Buddies program, Adams visits South Mountain School in South Orange and reads books for an hour each week to first-graders, who benefit from both the exposure to reading and the extra time with a consistent, caring adult.
“The children are enthusiastic and sweet. I always get hugs that are genuine,” Adams said.
Although RSVP supplies the books for Reading Buddies, she adds that she enjoys going to the library to pick out “special requests.” She said, “Just last week, a first-grader in one of my groups asked me to read a specific book. I went to the library, found that book, checked it out and he was so happy I remembered his request.”
And by going to the library outside of her regular volunteering hours, Bettie discovered a book club she could join!
When it comes to factors that might prevent a senior from volunteering, Bettie said, “I think there’s a fear that children won’t listen, or that you can’t keep their attention when reading them a story. Once, someone approached me and asked me how I read with such drama? I replied ‘just be yourself and the children will love having you there.’ Some children don’t have grandparents. Also, some seniors don’t have grandchildren. With Reading Buddies, everyone wins. I would say give it a try.”
She added that she is hoping to expand the volunteer work she does with RSVP; as a former ESL instructor, she enjoys working with non-English speakers and would love to find some way to utilize her skills to help others. In the meantime, the weekly commitment to Reading Buddies has “helped me to feel needed and appreciated,” she said.
She adds that she knows she is supported by RSVP should she need any assistance. Thanks to her 40 years of experience teaching children, she hasn’t needed any special training or workshops to feel comfortable as a Reading Buddies volunteer.
“I know that I enjoy the experience as much as the children do,” she said.
RSVP is seeking additional volunteers for the South Mountain Elementary School as well as the Lincoln Avenue School in Orange. Anyone interested in learning more about the program can contact Julie Cramer at 973-637-1761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.