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A Long Walk To Water

It doesn’t take much explanation to have a general understanding of the lack of good education for many young children who haven’t had an opportunity to benefit from a continuous school framework due to the last two years of living in pandemic conditions.

Changing school structures, due to the pandemic, has been detrimental to children in many of our communities, keeping them from getting the proper education they need, especially in the areas of math and reading.

Consider for a moment children from low-income families who don’t have the basic things most of us take for granted - like books, computers, and other learning devices. Add to that the lack of social interaction a good school provides. Then remember that many of these kids deal with food insecurity and often are doubled up in housing that doesn’t provide a quiet place to learn. It is easy to see the growing gulf of knowledge and opportunity many families and children are facing all over the country. This educational inequity will only get better if we all team up and step up to help these children find the support they desperately need.

My friend, Kimber Bishop Yanke, created a book buddy program last year to help children in Pontiac, Michigan get exposure from an outside source of additional educational support to explore a world outside of the one they know. The program was designed to use adult and teenage volunteers to buddy up with young children and read with them via online books that they would have an interest in. I loved this idea from the moment I heard about it because it fills a need not provided by schools to help these children connect with friendly folks outside of their home who help them succeed in reading and provide them with an opportunity to have a conversation with someone other than their family.

This year, Kimber is expanding the program and has brought in Julie Gibbs to quarterback it and extend some of the services. Julie is eager to take on this great effort and challenge but needs our help. I asked her to outline her plans for the book buddy program and I was impressed with her deep resonance and understanding of the problem these children are up against and how she plans to help them succeed in life.

By the way, I stole the title of this blog from Julie because it grasps the challenge and opportunity.

“A step at a time…One problem at a time --- just figure out this one problem.”

-Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water

The one problem our Book Buddy program seeks to solve is complex. How do you help kids throughout our community succeed in school even through times of episodic online learning, extreme economic inequality, teacher shortages, visitors unable to physically enter schools because of a pandemic, parents who are trying to make ends meet—and in some cases, kids who are learning English as their second language?

Well, you start one child at a time. Connect volunteers online with a child who can use a bit of extra educational support, provide books and other learning tools, and you have the building blocks of a program that helps one child to succeed a little bit more at school. One child at a time, one class at a time, one person’s future at a time.

Here’s the amazing part: on one side of this connection, you have a child who is receiving lifelong benefits from the experience. The act of volunteering has been shown to reduce stress, combat depression, and increase problem-solving skills --- all so vitally important as we emerge from this pandemic.

Over the next months, our Book Buddy program plans to increase the number of volunteer opportunities we can offer--- precisely because of the benefit on both sides of this wonderful connection.

Our plans are to:

-Provide our volunteers with the training they need to be successful - Increase our outreach efforts so more folks can become a part of this wonderful volunteer opportunity. Middle and high school students are absolutely incredible volunteers, and we want to be able to reach more of them to offer this tutoring experience

-Add to our library so more emerging readers can have access to books they enjoy

-Expand our fledgling math tutoring program

-Create tutoring programs in other subject areas

How can you help?

Sign up to volunteer, or share this link with those

in your life who may want to participate.

Let’s all take a minute to think about how we can help Julie and Kimber with this terrific endeavor. Importantly, to donate for the purchase of books and gift cards please use:

Purchase Books + E-Cards:

Purchase Blankets:

Thank you Kimber and Julie for everything you are doing. It is a wonderful effort that I strongly support.

All the best to you and your family,

Roger N. Steed

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