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by Sara Rivka Davidson


In today’s hectic world, many children are left behind without proper role models, or the educational support they need. But one program, Everybody Wins! is working in schools across the tri-state area to bring together children, teenagers, and working adults for the sake of opening up a good book. Founded in 1991 by businessman Arthur Tannenbaum, this program pairs adults with elementary school children in grades K-8; they get together once a week, during lunch break for a Power Lunch of reading together. Marilyn Rivera, a program coordinator for Everybody Wins! in New York City, says the idea is “to get children interested in reading more and reading on their own.” Everybody Wins! has corporate partners — companies, schools, and organizations that donate money and time. Corporate partners are also sometimes paired with teenage reading volunteers, and participate in an email mentoring program in which the older students and adults can discuss their love for literature. Rivera notes that once enrolled in the program, “a lot of the students have come out of their little shells, and just opened up. They read more on their own. You just see the difference . . . they gain more confidence and become more outgoing.” The volunteers gain satisfaction from the program, she adds, because “it just makes them happy knowing they are helping.” Aside from reading together, the adults and children sometimes write books, stories, poems, and songs, they copy these and circulate them to the other pairs during Power Lunch. In the Everybody Wins! newsletter, pieces written by the students and volunteers are also included. And sometimes, the volunteers are inspired by the students to put together a book. Rivera recalls “one volunteer who said: ‘We’re going to write a book of tall tales’ — because a boy was telling stories of going to the Cayman Islands for the weekend.” Each week, the reading material varies according to the child’s interests and reading level. The library is made available, but mostly the children and volunteers read anything from newspapers, world events, and sports, to the classics — old, and new like Charlotte’s Web. The Arthur books are hits with the youngest kids; Harry Potter is tops among 4th –6th graders. Older children get involved as well. Middle schoolers are paired with elementary school children in a program called Readers Are Leaders; using the same concept as Power Lunch. The teenagers enjoy the program, Rivera reports, because they see the youngsters “open up more when they respond to another person, kind of like a brother or sister.” The older students also reap the benefits of helping out a younger child, and learning to enjoy reading outside of the classroom. And, Rivera remarks, some of the younger children finish elementary school and become part of the Readers Are Leaders program — the ultimate testimony to the power of reading. If you would like to find out more information about you and your company can get involved, call the Everybody Wins Foundation at (212) 219-9940; or access www.everybodywins.org.


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