St. Francis’ ‘Reading Buddies’ program expands

Naomi Winovich talks with St. Francis student Mason Greenblatt about the book she has chosen to read to him during her Reading Buddies time at the King Road Library.

Fueled by a $1 million donation to St. Francis de Sales School, students and school leaders, in partnership with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library have expanded an existing reading program, Reading Buddies, to address literacy issues in the community. Tom Lauer, a 1967 alumnus and philanthropist residing in Boston, Mass., and his wife, Helene, made the single largest gift to the school in its 67-year history. Their gift will further incorporate service and leadership to the Toledo community as a meaningful part of their educational experience at St. Francis.

Three years ago, Reading Buddies was created for students in grades K-3 at the King Road Branch in Sylvania. The program allowed opportunities for young readers to partner up with St. Francis students and read together.
“My children are motivated to come to the library for the Reading Buddies program. They think it is really cool to read with an older kid and this experience will certainly help bring out the love of reading for my children,” noted mom Kristin Winovich. She said she had forgotten about the program and was busy weeding when her daughter reminded her and urged her to get to the library.

Alanso Pacheco, Bryson Richards, Ethan and Owen Little and Charlie Arquette are the other St. Francis students participating in the Reading Buddies program for children in grades K through third at the King Road Library from 2 to 3:30 pm on Tuesdays through July 28.

With the Lauer donation, St. Francis was able to expand its partnership with the TLCPL and go from five Knight volunteers in 2019 to 40 Knight volunteers in 2022. The goal of the program is to support the reader, encourage reading over the summer, and foster a lifelong love of reading. Reading Buddies is available at four branches this summer, and goes through the end of July. Students enjoy Reading Buddies every Tuesday at the King Road Library. Other St. Francis students and their Reading Buddies meet on Mondays at the Waterville Branch; Wednesday at the Heatherdowns Branch; and Thursdays at the Sanger Branch.

“We are pleased that our investment allows the school to scale the impact of the Reading Buddies program by partnering with other organizations and address the problem of literacy among young children where our students can do the most good. And we hope this experience encourages a commitment to service among St. Francis students where they can learn communication skills, patience, and empathy,” Tom Lauer said.

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