Fluffy buddies promote reading for kids



Attorney Kenneth Allen hands a stuffed zebra to Matthias Crots, 7, of Chesterton, who named the toy Zag. AMY LAVALLEY/photo

Attorney Kenneth Allen hands a stuffed zebra to Matthias Crots, 7, of Chesterton, who named the toy Zag. AMY LAVALLEY/photo

Brie Hylton had a lengthy list of books she wanted to read to her new stuffed pink pig, a Piglet she renamed Oink Oink, after her classmate named her duck Quack Quack.

Brie, 6, a first grader at Yost Elementary School in Porter, rattled off the names of books like nobody’s business: “Pinkalicious,” “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes,” and “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.”

For her inaugural reading session with Oink Oink, held Oct. 27 after local attorney Kenneth Allen handed out the Reading Buddies and read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss, Brie selected a picture book about Tinkerbell and her friends.

Brie, who lives in Porter, cuddled Oink Oink as she went through the book, starting a ritual that her teacher, Karen Donley, and United Way of Northwest Indiana officials hope will inspire a lifetime of reading.

Allen, of the Allen Law Group, donated $22,500 to support literacy in the region through the United Way Reading Buddies program, which will provide about 4,000 first and second graders with “buddies,” which the kids read to for at least 15 minutes each day.

Left: Brie Hylton, 6, of Porter, reads a book about Tinkerbell to Oink Oink, her new Reading Buddy, as part of a reading program through United Way of Northwest Indiana that’s funded by attorney Kenneth Allen. Center: Yost Elementary School first grade teacher Karen Donley shows her students how they will store their Reading Buddies at the end of each school day. Students take the toys home at the end of the school year. Right: Zoey Ottomanelli, 6, of Chesterton, selected a “Berenstain Bears” book, a fitting choice for her new Reading Buddy, Bear Bear. AMY LAVALLEY/photos

Left: Brie Hylton, 6, of Porter, reads a book about Tinkerbell to Oink Oink, her new Reading Buddy, as part of a reading program through United Way of Northwest Indiana that’s funded by attorney Kenneth Allen. Center: Yost Elementary School first grade teacher Karen Donley shows her students how they will store their Reading Buddies at the end of each school day. Students take the toys home at the end of the school year. Right: Zoey Ottomanelli, 6, of Chesterton, selected a “Berenstain Bears” book, a fitting choice for her new Reading Buddy, Bear Bear. AMY LAVALLEY/photos

“Reading is such a foundation to success in life and I’m just proud to be a part of it,” Allen said after handing the stuffed toys out to each child in Donley’s class and reading to them. Sarah Arrigo’s first grade class joined in for the story time.

Before handing out the toys, Allen explained that the students wouldn’t have to feed them.

“All you have to do is read to them every day and they’ll be happy and healthy and wise,” he said.

For the rest of the school year, Conley told the students, they will read to their buddies in class, then place them in their book boxes to stay at school at night.

“At the end of the school year, you get to take your buddy home,” she said, as her students cheered and clapped.

Donley, whose students participate in at least 15 minutes of quiet reading time each day, said her class has participated in Reading Buddies for at least five years now.

“Every year it’s one of my kids’ favorite things,” she said, adding taking the buddies home is exciting for the students at the end of the school year.

First grade also is an exciting time for reading, Donley added, because students show so much growth throughout the school year, jumping to new reading levels and celebrating in class.

“Using these Reading Buddies is such an incentive,” she said.

Matthias Crots, 7, of Chesterton, gladly took a stuffed zebra from Allen, which he named Zag, “basically like zig zag,” Matthias said. He likes what he reads about, he added, and looked forward to finding “easy books” to read to Zag.

Zoey Ottomanelli, meanwhile, followed the classroom trend and named her new buddy Bear Bear. “He’s 1 year old and I’m 6,” the Chesterton girl explained.

Zoey, too, is a fan of the “Pete the Cat” series, as well as “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.” She selected “The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream” for her first reading session with Bear Bear.

“That’s my favorite,” she said, adding Bear Bear likes to do other things, too, “like doing exercises so he can be strong, like push-ups. I know how to do push-ups because I do them in gym.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You have 3 more free access views left