Church contributes to elementary school through reading buddy program

By Bridgett Ellison - Anchor

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Just in time for Florida's Celebrate Literacy Week, News 6 is featuring an outreach effort that's getting results in our schools.

Every week, over 40 "Reading Buddies" from University Carillon United Methodist Church come spend time with a student at Bonneville Elementary to help them work on reading and comprehension skills. The students say they look forward to meeting with their buddies who make reading more fun.

"He helps me read, answers my questions, and helps me correct my words and helps me to learn," Jonathan Santana, a third-grader, said.

"They see you and they jump up to grab their books with a big smile on their face as they run to the library to read, it's a tremendous experience," University Carillon UMC Pastor Chris Akers.

The volunteer effort is one of many outreach projects the church contributes to the school. Principal Kimrey Sheehan credits Reading Buddies as a major part of a multi-pronged approach that focused on reading to improve the school's overall grade from a "C" to an "A" last year.

"It's different when a child hears from his teacher how important reading is, but now you have an adult who comes in to focus on how well you are reading, it takes on a new perspective for children," Sheehan said.

The volunteers say they hope they're not only making a lasting difference for the students, but inspiring others to get involved with local schools to get results for kids who could use a helping hand.

"I hope what I'm contributing is something that will carry through these kids lives for the rest of their lives and ultimately make them better citizens, better people," John Hope, a Reading Buddy volunteer, said.

The University Carillon UMC also helped start a Clothes Closet for Bonneville students in need and hosts a 5th grade end-of-school-year celebration every year.

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