Teens Team Up with Kids, Becoming Reading Buddies

Four-week program includes reading and team-building activities

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Freddie Barnes, left, reads a book with teen volunteer Jayden Fahl as part of the Reading Buddies program at Kempsville Library.

Freddie Barnes' eyes light up when he sees a book about the superhero Wolverine. The 4-year-old participated in Kempsville Library's "Reading Buddies" program, which connects children to teen mentors for one-on-one reading and group activities.

Over the four-week program, Freddie has had the freedom to pick his own books to read, and he's made his teen buddies laugh during games of hangman, Twister and other challenges.

Teen volunteer Jayden Fahl said he and Freddie hit it off from the start.

"He really likes Marvel superheroes and so do I," Jayden said. "This made it really easy for him and me to connect, and if he had any questions – I could answer them easily."

Freddie's mom is a big fan of Virginia Beach Public Library.

"If it's a rainy day, that's the place we go," Katie Barnes said. "We rely on it so much for the kids programs. We also go there for play dates."

Barnes' older son, Floyd, participated in Reading Buddies last summer and loved it, so when this year's program showed up the library's website – mom was ready to sign up both of her sons.

For each Reading Buddies session, the teens pair up with children for reading time. During the second part of the session, the teens lead group in team-building activities that help children realize the library is a fun place to visit, says Anna Lestik, teen services librarian.

"For the last week, teens showed the children how to make paper airplanes, demonstrated how to throw them, and challenged them to distance and skill challenges," Lestik says.

Barnes watched as her sons compete with other Reading Buddies.

"They got a huge kick out of that," Barnes said.

It's been a year full of library activities for the Barnes family. The children met some furry friends when Teeny Tiny Farm brought its mobile petting zoo to Central Library. Freddie and Floyd listened to a historical reenactor tell a story as part of the History Mystery Reader program at Great Neck Library. And they regularly attend story-times at Bayside Library.

"The libraries are great places to go," Barnes said. "They have so many resources for kids and for grown-ups as well."

To find VBPL reading programs for children of all ages, visit VBgov.com/library-events.

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Floyd Barnes, left, folds a paper airplane with teen volunteer Alex Valencia at Kempsville Library.

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Team-building activities, such as paper airplane challenges, are part of the Reading Buddies program.

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