Buddies over books

READING: Paiton Hilliard is part of a reading program to help young people discover reading.
READING: Paiton Hilliard is part of a reading program to help young people discover reading.

Paiton Hilliard, 16, of Mount Cotton  may never meet her buddy, but the impact they have made on one another will last a lifetime.

For the second year, Paiton has volunteered two nights a week to speak directly to a young girl  she has been teamed with through Australian children's education charity, The Smith Family.

The  student2student program matches young students who need help with their reading skills with reading buddies,  who are specially trained to help develop reading skills in others. The concept is based on research which reveals that best support comes from students of a similar age.

Paiton heard about the program through Sheldon College' community service program and elected to do the project last year.

"The opportunity crossed her path and she took it.  She's just that sort of girl.  She likes to help others and gets great reward in doing so," Paiton's mother Sonya Hilliard said.

Last year, Paiton focused on helping a nine-year-old boy and this year, she is supporting a girl.

"They each have a hard copy of the book which they read over the phone for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Thursday night.  Paiton is committed and will text them to see how they are going and even continue through the holidays," Mrs Hilliard said.

 Under the program, students  only know each others' first names.

 "I find it rewarding to hear the excitement in the reader's voice when they overcome a challenging word or complete a book faster than the time before.  It is great to hear them reading with enthusiasm and expression by the end of the program. Sometimes they are just happy to have me listen to their reading," Paiton said.

Paiton said her reading buddy this year was very excited about the program.”

“The benefits of student2student are two-fold. Younger students are motivated by older peers to improve their reading, and buddies in turn develop leadership abilities which they will carry with them long after the program concludes,”  student2student Program Specialist Bianca Ridings said.

Mrs Hilliard said Paiton did not volunteer for the accolade, describing her daughter as a "quiet achiever".

"She just gets satisfaction from helping someone else," she said.

“As our programs continue to grow, we need to engage more schools like Sheldon College and other Redland schools to come on board by offering volunteering opportunities to their students. This year we are aiming to support 478 pairs. The next phase of the program doesn’t start until mid-July, and all student volunteers will need to be finalised by mid-June,” Ms Ridings said.

Interested people can register as a reading buddy on  s2sQLD@thesmithfamily.com.au