Be a Reader literacy project celebrates 24 years of cultivating the love of reading

by | Sep 14, 2023 | Other News

Robin Ford
For nearly a quarter of a century, the Be a Reader Literacy Project has transformed students’ lives in Norfolk and Virginia Beach Title I schools by igniting their passion for reading. As it enters its 24th year of operation, the project stands as a shining example of the profound impact that focused efforts can have on nurturing a love for literature.

Since its inception, the Be a Reader Literacy Project has worked to bridge the gap in literacy skills among students of various backgrounds. The initiative aims to instill a lifelong appreciation for reading by providing access to engaging and diverse reading materials. The project strives to improve reading proficiency and spark curiosity, imagination, and critical thinking through reading sessions, games, and the much-loved I am a BeAR Star workbook.

One of the project’s key strengths lies in its community-oriented approach. Local volunteers and educators, with the support of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, come together to create a nurturing one-on-one environment that encourages second grade students to explore the world of words. The program’s success stories are a testament to the power of connections – volunteer mentors who go the extra mile to make reading enjoyable and meaningful, fostering a sense of companionship and guidance that extends beyond the pages of a book.

As BeAR celebrates its 24th anniversary, it’s essential to recognize the countless individuals who have poured their time, energy, and enthusiasm into its growth. From the originator BeARs, Frances Birschstein (of blessed memory), Gail Flax, Betsy Karotkin, and Ronnie-Jane Konikoff, who envisioned a world where every child could discover the joy of reading to the countless number of volunteers (many of whom have been with the program for many years) who dedicate their time to mentoring in reading, writing, and even helping with homework, the Be a Reader Literacy Project stands as a collaborative endeavor driven by a shared love for learning and the desire to see every child have the opportunity to succeed.

Looking ahead, the project remains strong with a clear vision of nurturing generations of readers who are proficient in reading and empowered by it. The Be a
Reader Literacy Project continues to remind everyone that the journey of 1,000 books begins with a single page – a sentiment that resonates deeply as it embarks on its 24th year of kindling the love of reading in the hearts of students everywhere.

BeAR’s success translates to the need for more volunteers. An hour a week throughout the school year is the commitment, but for those with limited time, some volunteers ask friends to join them and commit to the BeAR Share program, where two mentors work with the same child alternately, depending on their schedule. The Norfolk schools, Chesterfield, Larrymore, and Willard, and Virginia Beach schools, Birdneck, College Park, Tallwood (supported by Tallwood High School), Thalia, and Seatack Elementary all need additional volunteers.

Together, it is possible to ensure that everyone can find a place to volunteer and contribute to the growth and development of young readers in these Title I schools.
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Contact BeAR coordinator, Robin Ford at 757-321-2304 or email at for more information.