BeARS, books…and Coasties…OH MY!

by | Apr 20, 2023 | Other News

Lieutenant Kelly Kuong and Chief Warrant Officer Melinda Skinner with their BeAR students.

Lieutenant Kelly Kuong and Chief Warrant Officer Melinda Skinner are part of a group of four United States Coast Guardsmen who serve as BeAR mentors at Chesterfield Academy Elementary School.

From Jupiter, Fla., Kuong says of reading with her second grade BeAR student, “I love connecting on a meaningful level with students who may not be as privileged as I was when I was young.” When asked what she hopes her student gets from their time together, her reply is quick, “character, integrity, love, and hope!”  Kuong’s BeAR student loves reading and playing spelling games with her and really loves that she comes in uniform before her USCG workday begins.
A Norfolk native, Skinner’s passion for working in the BeAR program stems from her personal struggles with dyslexia.  “I enjoy mentoring kids.  I am dyslexic and know the difficulties I had as a child.” Skinner says that every week she sees her BeAR gaining more confidence in her reading skills.  Skinner’s hope for her student is to find a love for reading and the confidence to read aloud with her peers.  Like her mentor, Skinner’s young BeAR student is bright, bubbly, and happy to be part of the program.
The BeAR Literacy program is incredibly fortunate to have such a diverse and loving group of mentors.  The children in these Title 1 Norfolk and Virginia Beach schools enjoy the time, attention, and dedication this important program offers.
Reading to children has many benefits, including more expansive expressive and receptive vocabularies and language comprehension, and it even helps with math skills. The social and emotional benefits of reading can never be understated.  Reading helps foster empathy, perspective, understanding, likes, dislikes, and problem-solving…the list is never-ending.
Volunteers are always needed to help make a difference in a child’s life. BeAR mentors go to the schools for one hour a week for one-on-one time with a child to read, play reading games, to tell stories, and help with schoolwork. Volunteers become so much in such a small amount of time.
Interested in becoming a BeAR mentor? Robin Ford, BeAR coordinator, may be reached at 757-321-2304 or
-Robin Ford