Reading Allowed | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Reading Allowed 

Literacy program doesn't want to reach "The End"

When Tess Riesmeyer started reading to Jasmine, the first-grader didn't like to read aloud. She was a little afraid. But now after three years of weekly sessions in the Read Together program, Jasmine is much less bashful: She reads to Riesmeyer.

It's one small success in Read Together, which began in 1987 to match kids whose parents were enrolled in literacy programs with volunteers who could help them foster a love of reading. Nowadays the program is open to all 3- to 8-year-olds from low-income families (basically, those eligible for free or reduced school lunches) and has about 200 kids and 200 volunteers. And it's looking to expand. Read Together, a project of the Beginning With Books literacy group, is seeking both more participants -- especially from Hazelwood, the Hill District, Sheraden, South Side and the West End -- and more volunteers to read to them.

Read Together volunteers must be 18 years or older, take a two-hour orientation session and commit to meeting with a child for 45 to 60 minutes at least once a week for at least six months. Most sessions take place at the neighborhood library most convenient for the kids' families. Volunteers don't teach kids to read: Mostly they sow literacy by example, demonstrating that reading is fun to children whose parents might be too busy working to read aloud to them much.

Kids can stay in the program through age 12. "It's just very important for kids to hear books read aloud," says Riesmeyer, who's also Beginning With Books' special-projects coordinator. "That is so important, for kids just to hear the language." Mostly, though, says Riesmeyer, "You just get to have fun."

To participate, call 412-361-8560.


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