Book Buddies brings joy of reading to young children


STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) — Adam McCabe loves to read — specifically “Big Nate” books, which follow the comedic adventures of a wise-cracking sixth-grader. The 7-year-old Wilton boy reads the graphic novel series aloud to his parents everywhere — in the kitchen during meal prep or while they’re showering in the bathroom — sometimes showing them the same giggle-inducing page again and again.

So the incoming second-grader’s dream came true when he and his family stumbled upon the Book Buddies program at the Ferguson Library, where his dad was getting his passport. There, he was able to spend almost an hour at a small, circular table in the children’s section, reading aloud “Big Nate Says Goodbye to Dork City” to Andre Amrain, a summer intern with KPMG.

For about a month each summer since 2013, the Stamford office of the international audit, tax and advisory firm has been sending interns to the Ferguson Library for an hour a day to read to children. This summer, KPMG has sent about 40 interns and has had more than 200 participate in the program over the past five years to read to a cumulative 7,000 children.

It is part of the company’s Family For Literacy program where they have also distributed 4 million books nationwide over the last decade, including 25,000 in Stamford.

While many people picture libraries brimming with children’s reading opportunities, Elizabeth McKay, youth services supervisor at the Ferguson, said this is not always the case. But the Book Buddies program, placed in the afternoon after lunch when crowds at the library sometimes reach a lull, gives little visitors a chance to get one-on-one time with a young adult while encouraging their reading skills.

“They’re young so it’s a little, special occasion,” McKay said. “There’s not too many opportunities to have an adult’s undivided attention.”

Manish Madhavani, office managing partner at KPMG Stamford, said including interns in the Book Buddies program gives them a full taste of the company.

“They get experience of not only working with clients, but working with the community,” he said.

Mariam Chkhikvadze, a 6-year-old entering second grade at Strawberry Hill School, has been going to the Book Buddies events all summer.

“I love libraries,” she said, adding her favorite part of the Ferguson is the fish tank in the children’s section, which reminds her of her own fish, Spring and Summer.

Though she’s young, Chkhikvadze has already developed a palette for literature. Her favorite is Mo Willems, who writes the “Elephant and Piggies” series, which follows the dynamic duo of an elephant and a pig.

On a recent Thursday, she chose to read to KPMG intern Michelle De Vries, exchanging giggles over funny scenes and acting out the sneezes the elephant, Gerald, comes down with in one book.

“I like to read to people and have people read to me,” Chkhikvadze said. “Every time we read a book, there’s so much to learn. Every time, we learn something new.”

Behind her, McCabe was deep into a “Nate the Great” book with Amrain who is living in Westchester County for the summer while interning in the business/tax services department at KPMG. The rising senior at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, said he’s previously done service work, but this was his first time participating in the Book Buddies program.

“I had a blast,” he said. “Being able to work for a company that pushes this initiative is great. Being able to interact with children and foster early learning brightens my day and gives back to the community.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2LzWtJf

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Information from: The Advocate, http://www.stamfordadvocate.com

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