WEST ORANGE, NJ — The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Center of Essex and Hudson Counties recently announced the expansion of its Reading Buddies program to Hazel and Redwood Elementary Schools in West Orange as part of its ongoing effort to connect volunteers ages 55 and older with elementary school students in Essex County.

"We are delighted to be welcoming the Reading Buddies program to Redwood for the 2019/20 school year,” said Redwood Principal Tim Beaumont. “Student literacy is at the heart of all we do at Redwood, and the Reading Buddies program will augment the existing work we do in this area...We are looking forward to building on the existing success of this program at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School.

Julie Cramer, RSVP Program Manager, explained that the Reading Buddies program introduces the love of books and increases literacy in young children. Early literacy is linked with academic achievement, higher graduation rates and enhanced productivity in adult life, she added.

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According to Beaumont, trained volunteers will be working with West Orange students in the three youngest grade levels once a week this upcoming school year in an effort to help deepen the students' enthusiasm for reading.

“Reading Buddies is a unique program that connects children and volunteers through books,” said Cramer. “The older adults read to the children every week throughout the school year, forming a warm relationship based on the love of reading." 

She also added that the program has shown to be very effective in “helping to increase literacy, reading comprehension, and vocabulary in children grades K-2.”

Reading Buddies is actively seeking volunteers interested in spending one hour per week reading books to elementary school students at locations in West Orange, South Orange or Orange. Anyone 55 or older who is interested in learning more about becoming a Reading Buddies volunteer is encouraged to contact Cramer at 973-637-1761 or jcramer@jfsmetrowest.org.

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Center for Essex and Hudson Counties, established in 1971, is one of the largest volunteer networks in the nation for people 55 and over with 200,000 volunteers across the nation. It is sponsored by Jewish Family Service of MetroWest NJ and funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) as part of Senior Corps.