Book Buddies Interview

June 2nd, 2015

Bring Me A Book (BMAB): What exactly is Book Buddies? 

Kristine: ‘We started Book Buddies—which was originally called “Adopt-a-Site,”—because we needed a way to refurbish and refresh the bookcase libraries Bring Me A Book had previously donated to these classrooms. Additionally, we were looking for a way to reinforce the importance of reading aloud to children in the classroom and in the home. We also wanted to be a model for teachers and provide meaningful, dedicated volunteer opportunities. We realized that simply dropping off a Book Case library without any follow up with the teacher and reinforcement of Bring Me A Book’s message was not going to help these children. 

BMAB: How long has Book Buddies been around?

Kristine: It started in the fall of 2006. Our first attempt was to reach as many school sites as we could and, as a result, we covered a lot of territory in the Bay Area. However, we only did that for one year. Since that first year, we have really focused on having a meaningful impact on a select number of classrooms in East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City.

BMAB: How many Book Buddies are there currently and how many classrooms do they serve?

Kristine: This past year there were 15 book buddies, who went to 15 different classrooms. There is an average of 20 children and 3 teachers in each classroom, which means 200 kids received two new quality books for their homes and 15 classrooms received 16 new books each.  

BMAB: How do you determine which schools the Book Buddies are going to read in?

Kristine: We originally chose sites based on where the book case libraries had been delivered. Now, we choose school sites that are in need and almost always where learning English is one of the children’s biggest projects. We also choose sites where we have a relationship with the teacher or have been referred to by one of Bring Me A Book partners’ such as the New Teachers Center.

BMAB: What is the biggest challenge Book Buddies face? 

Kristine: The limited English language of the children and in many cases is a great challenge. Also, great read-aloud book selection each year is a challenge, as well as something; I think we do very well. We change the selection of books every year, and sometimes change the entire collection to make sure classrooms and children are always exposed to new books. The best read-aloud books are a special collection- they need to be large, colorful, engaging, the language needs to be simple, and this becomes more challenging each year to pick new books that fit this criteria. 

BMAB: What has been the most rewarding aspect of Book Buddies?

Kristine: Being a book buddy directly, going back to the same children in the same classroom, having the children recognize you and remember you and looking forward to seeing you. It is sort of like being a grandma and the children are just adorable. It is also special when you are lucky enough to connect with a teacher. And of course, giving the books to the children. Their eyes really do light up when they receive their very own copy of the story. 

BMAB: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time as a Book Buddy and running Book Buddies?

Kristine: I have learned a lot about how to read aloud to children and learned how to be an engaging grandmother-type to these children. Book Buddies also serves an important purpose in helping Bring Me A Book choose and really test in a classroom environment, the best read-aloud books. In the future, we are hoping to help the teachers learn how to read aloud by not only watching the Book Buddies—who are each trained readers, but also by giving the teachers the Book Buddies training videos. We would also love to be able to send the training video home with each child to help teach parents how to read aloud to their families.