Wingham's reading buddies

Reading buddies Madeleine Barwell and Abbey Drury
Reading buddies Madeleine Barwell and Abbey Drury

WINGHAM High School student Madeleine Barwell always found it easy to read.

But she has had many friends over the years that didn't.

"I think that is why I really like helping people to learn."

Each week of school term, Madeleine phones a primary school student she has never met.

The phone calls, two to three times a week, offer much needed support and encouragement to the younger student.

Madeleine is taking part in the Smith Family's student2student program.

This groundbreaking program is designed to improve the reading skills of children in year's three to eight, who have a reading age up to two years behind their chronological age.

Madeleine's fellow Wingham High student, Abbey Drury is also a volunteer 'reading buddy,' with the program.

Having to conduct the reading lessons by phone was confronting for Abbey who said she has always struggled on the phone.

"It has given me more confidence so I am getting something from the program too."

Both buddy and student have the same book in front of them while the lesson takes place.

Madeleine and Abbey admit they have had to learn to be patient and discerning working with the younger children.

They are both aware that constantly pulling up their student to correct them can be more harmful than good.

"Some things you've got to let go," said Madeleine.

"And if they are really nervous, you have to know when to take over."

Both girls are grateful for the opportunity to volunteer their time and will consider taking part again next year.

"The only trouble is fitting it in," said Abbey of the 20 minute sessions.

"It can be hard to get a day when you are both free."

But at the end of the day Madeleine and Abbey agree it costs them nothing but their time to make a difference.

"It is so rewarding." They say in unison.