Book Buddies, Book Mice: Volunteer programs that benefit everyone

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

By Robert Holt

What does an 89-year young female do to give back to her community? How about an 85-year young female who does the same thing? They both spend approximately two hours each week in the Book Buddy program at S.P. Morton Elementary School in Franklin. They work with first graders to help them become better readers. Both ladies have been volunteering in the program for over 10 years.

S.P. Morton volunteer coordinator Joyce Carter, who has taught in Franklin for 39 years, manages the program that has 12 volunteers in the Book Buddy group. They come twice each week and work one-one with ten first grade students for 45-60 minutes each session. Ms. Carter prepares individual lesson plans for each student each session.

A second group of nine volunteers, called Book Mice, comes once a week for an hour and works with kindergarteners, also in one-one sessions. They work with all kindergarten students throughout the year for about 20 minutes each time, thus three students each hour. These volunteers read three to six books to these students each 20-minute session.

Started in 2001 by retired Franklin teacher Faith Atkinson, these programs are technically referred to as educational interventions. Students are selected for the Book Buddy program based on their Phonological Awareness Literacy Profile score. All kindergarten students participate in the Book Mice program. Test scores reflect significant reading improvement for all student participants.

The things that most amazed me when I have visited on several occasions are the smiles I see on the students’ faces and the dedication of the volunteers. Most of the volunteers are retired and have been involved for many years. They rarely miss a scheduled session. When asked why they participate, they respond that the joy they see when students make progress is enough to motivate them and keep them coming back. They see the ability to read as critical to academic success and want to assist those behind their peers to catch up or surpass them. One volunteer, a current pastor, said that technology tends to distract kids today. They need to be able to sit quietly and read to learn. Another volunteer indicated that the program is as much for her as it is for the students. She is so pleased to see such phenomenal progress at the end of the year.

Funding for the program comes from the Franklin Schools budget, the Franklin Educational Foundation and private donations. Ms. Carter is always willing to welcome new volunteers. She may be reached at the S.P. Morton school office at 562-5458 or

ROBERT N. HOLT, a native of Franklin, is a retired professor of business management and real estate at Southwestern Community College in Sylva, North Carolina. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies degrees from Virginia Tech, and was a member of the university’s Corps of Cadets. His e-mail address is