Make a difference with BeAR

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – Albert Einstein

We all want to feel that we truly make a difference. Participating in the Be A Reader (BeAR) Literacy Project of the United Jewish Federation Tidewater is an easy and rewarding way to accomplish this. Now in its 25th year, the BeAR program began to help second graders in Title I schools who were struggling to read. As the years passed, we found that the relationships made with the children were just as crucial as their reading progress. Plus, we, the mentors, gained as much as the children! An added feature of the program is that it includes both Jewish and non-Jewish volunteers.

Today, BeAR continues to make its mark in seven schools throughout Tidewater, with the newest school being Thalia Elementary in Virginia Beach.

Ed and I look forward to being with our “kids” for an hour every Wednesday. Not only are the children precious, but it is so rewarding to see their reading skills improve and watch our relationships with them deepen. I have noticed that today’s children often have different needs than those in 1995. Many come from broken families; others have arrived from countries where English was not their first language.

I cannot say enough about Robin Ford, our BeAR program coordinator. She is always energetic, smiling, helpful, and loaded down with books and fun worksheets for us to give the children. Can you imagine how I felt when my “BeAR” student asked (almost begged) if she could keep the book we had read that day? I was delighted.

As we all know, reading is essential to everything we do. What a gift to give by spending an hour a week reading and playing word games with a seven or eight-year-old child. It’s also possible to pair up with another volunteer (BeAR share) for those who prefer to meet every other week or month.

UJFT has received the Literacy Award from the Virginia Beach Reading Council, the Exemplary Partnership Award from Virginia Beach Public Schools, and many other awards, recognitions, and accolades.

Be a BeAR volunteer and become a part of this worthwhile endeavor!

To volunteer with the Be A Reader Literacy Project (BeAR), contact Robin Ford at 757-321-2304 or

BeAR volunteer Demetrious Gooden with a student at Larrymore Elementary.