HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 17, 2016 – Presents wrapped in holiday red and green were piled beneath a tree in the High Point University School of Education lobby. Bound in fluorescent pink paper, one gift stood out. It was for 6-year-old Audrina Beard.
Tugging at the arm of her book buddy, HPU junior Erin Scerra, Beard inched closer and closer to the tree. “I need to find my present,” she said. It didn’t take her long.
Beard was one of 40 Montlieu Academy of Technology students who attended HPU’s annual Book Buddy End of Year Celebration. Partnered with their HPU buddies, Montlieu students spread throughout the School of Education to find quiet reading spots, make ornaments for the tree and participate in a book-based scavenger hunt.
Since the beginning of the school year, HPU education majors have been partnered with their buddies, spending an hour per week reading. The program aims to encourage and facilitate reading in a one-on-one setting for the elementary school children.
“This has been a fantastic year,” said Dr. Leslie Cavendish, assistant professor of education at HPU. “I’m so impressed with the HPU students. They have gone above and beyond with their commitment to these children, and that’s a reflection of just how closely they’ve bonded with their student. It takes a lot of time and effort on their part, and we hope that we’ve made an impact on the children’s lives and their love of reading.”
Carrying the ornament she had decorated and the bright pink gift bundle, Beard found a spot beneath the stocking-lined fireplace to open her gift from Scerra. Her eyes got big as she tore away the paper that hid a new book.
“It’s the ‘Little Pink Puppy’ book!” she squealed looking up to her buddy.
“It was her favorite book that we read together this semester,” said Scerra. “I wanted to make sure she had a copy.”
Beard received a second book, one she said she couldn’t wait to read, and her favorite gift of all – a binder made by her buddy.
A culmination of their semester spent reading together, the binder was filled with photos of every book the two had shared, including notes they took on them and photos that Beard had drawn to illustrate the story lines. Each child received one from their HPU buddy.
While Beard showed off the pages of her binder, Scerra explained why the day was so special for the elementary school visitors.
“Today is an amazing day. These kids do not get opportunities like this often, and simple things like showing them the tree or reading a story means the world to them,” Scerra said. “I’m just happy to have been a part of it and to have made a difference in my book buddy’s life.”
After all ornaments were hung and every gift opened, children were treated to hot chocolate and cookies before heading across campus to explore the Point Arcade in HPU’s Wanek Center.
Montlieu first grader Molly Golden walked through the lobby with her HPU buddy, Maddie Laux, as the event was winding down. Toting an ornament and talking about her favorite book “Fancy Nancy,” Golden summed up her feelings about the day.
“Today has been a lot of fun,” she said looking up at Laux. “But all the days with her have been fun.”