My (Virtual) Buddy Reading Experience

By Maeve, Riley’s Way Reading Buddy, The Hewitt School

We are living in a time that is unprecedented and unpredictable. We may even find difficulty in doing the things we loved. But we still have the same number of hours as we did before; we just need to find a way to use them.

The buddy reading program started by Riley’s Way has changed my view of self-isolation. Every week, I get on a Zoom call with Autumn, an energetic, spunky, and curious kindergartner who attends the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem. I am a rising senior at the Hewitt School, entering an unconventional college process, and I know that this summer is crucial for writing applications and internships. All of this, on top of the circumstances of today, adds extra stress. But when I get on a call with Autumn, my mind reverts to a time in my life which was full of curiosity and innocent happiness.

Autumn adores the book series “Scaredy Squirrel,” which follows a nervous, hyperintense squirrel who lives his days in fear. As I read this children’s book to her through a computer screen, I notice similarities to our current circumstance. The book follows a specific pattern: Scaredy Squirrel refuses to go outside because of x, y, and z. Then, he decides he needs to get something outside the comfort of his own home. He plans an entire schedule on when to leave and how to be prepared. But when he finally leaves his cozy tree he realizes that his plans don’t work in the real world and, instead, he needs to relax and live his life with no schedule.

Buddy Readers Niyah and Taylor

We are all living in fear right now; unpredictable government, futures, and events are all enough to make us fret. But the idea that you can only be happy once you get out of your head is also true to today. We are seeing a cultural change in the midst of a global crisis and it takes strength to protest or advocate when in such fear. But sometimes it has to be done.

Although Autumn mostly doesn’t understand the complexity of the story (I for sure wouldn’t), she still finds the books to be enjoyable and fruitful and begs me to find more. The original plan was to call our buddies for 30 minutes tops, yet I don’t do that. Instead, I stay on with Autumn for a full hour. Her mother is still working and her sister takes care of her during the day. This buddy reading program is not only adorable, but helpful. I know that by keeping Autumn busy for one hour a week, I am helping her family out in a small, but meaningful, way. And in today’s world, being kind to one another is how we will get through some of our challenges.