Volunteer Services (RSVP)
Healthy Buddies/Reading Buddies pair specially trained volunteers with at-risk elementary school children
to advance early reader’s literacy skills and promote healthy behaviors.
FCS developed Healthy Buddies in response to the startling increase in childhood obesity nationwide and the growing numbers of young children and adolescence who are at-risk for obesity here in New Jersey.
Mimicking the format of our Reading Buddies childhood literacy program, Healthy Buddies partners senior volunteers with students, grades 3-5, to help them develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors needed to maintain and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Using an evidence-based curriculum, specially trained volunteers guide students in making healthy choices by leading nutrition lessons, engaging in physical activities and providing healthy snacks. Each volunteer works with the same small class of students every week throughout the school year. This unique partnership helps promotes healthy lifestyle experiences that can be shared across generations, bringing empathy and compassion to a topic sometimes fraught with anxiety and frustration.
Healthy Buddies, which began in two underserved Monmouth County schools in 2012-2013 school year, expanded to four schools during the 2013-2014 school year. The program now has 16 senior volunteers who teach the Healthy Buddies curriculum to more than 175 students, in eight classrooms.
Reading Buddies engages senior volunteers in promoting childhood literacy in underserved Monmouth County public schools. Launched in 1998 with eight volunteers and 40 students at one school, Reading Buddies currently serves over 1,600 students in 79 classrooms in 16 Monmouth County public elementary schools. Today nearly 200 Retired and Senior Volunteers read to the same small groups of students each week throughout the school year using a read-aloud format that augments the school’s regular reading curriculum. Reading Buddies remains the only in-school program of its kind in Monmouth County.
Guided by the tenets of the “America Reads Challenge Act of 1997”, whose goal is to develop reading proficiency in every child in America by the time they reach the end of third grade, the program’s aim is to improve reading proficiency, and by doing so, provide educational benefits that lead to success in school and career. According to the 2014 Kids Count Data Snapshot from the Annie E. Casey Foundation*, 66% of all fourth graders in the U.S. read below proficient levels, with significant disparities in reading proficiency by race, income, disability status and among dual language learners. In New Jersey alone, 58% of fourth graders read below proficient levels. Studies also show that an anticipated decrease in future high school and college graduates will eventually leave the U.S. with a workforce that lacks the necessary educational skills and credentials to prosper and grow our economy. The goal of Reading Buddies is to help reverse this trend by teaching literacy skills during the most important and influential time in each child’s development, before the age of 8.
Reading Buddies’ intergenerational approach to reading goes beyond fostering the literacy skills essential to future success. It also provides appropriate role-modeling for young students, builds confidence and mutual respect, and broadens students’ understanding of the world around them.