By Kaileigh Krupp, '18
Now in its third year, Albion's Big Read is a program that inspires young people to love reading and brings the community together through shared reading experiences. It provides the community with a month's worth of arts and humanities programming and with the opportunity to join book discussions led by local 8th-10th graders who are a part of Albion's Big Read Youth Leadership Program. This year's discussions center on Charles Portis' 1968 novel True Grit. Although Albion's Big Read didn't take place until October, college volunteers spent part of their summer assisting Professor of English Jess Roberts and Assistant Director of Albion's Big Read Madeline Drury, '15, in training the middle and high school student leaders.
Among the volunteers was Anna Moore, '19, who has achieved all-Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association in each of her first two years as a member of the Briton swimming and diving team.
"My main job as a college volunteer was to improve the kids' understanding of what we were learning," Moore said. "This program was helping students connect with the books and underlying messages of the books, to then have them help our community come together and understand these messages and how it affects everyone today."
Although the Big Read creates a positive and interactive learning environment, Moore said it was incredibly important to all the volunteers that the kids didn't feel like they were at school during the summer, so it was made as fun as possible with games, snacks, and activities.
With the all the fun for the students, as well as the educational benefits, it is easy to see that the Big Read is a very successful program, but not just for the students. A psychology major, Moore commented on how the students helped her to develop as an individual as well.
"The best part was learning about every single one of the kids and the fact that I learned so much about myself," she said. "Those kids showed me how to love anyone and to forget about the hard things in life and just smile. After our sessions together, I would be mentally and physically exhausted. It isn't a bad challenge at all, I love those kind of challenges. These students made me learn and made me a better person."
Throughout the summer Moore created some incredible friendships with the students. One student in particular made a lasting impression on Moore.
"I honestly think that working with her benefited both of us so much," Moore said. "It benefited her because she found out that she can always talk to me about anything and I'll be there for her and it benefited me because I learned to be there for someone wholeheartedly which is a lesson that no class can teach."
Overall, the Big Read program is a learning experience from multiple angles. There's the actual material that they cover, coming to love to learn, and the relationships that develop between the youth and college volunteers.
"This program was an eye opening time and I've never had so much fun or loved a program more than that. It was such a good feeling to be able to be a part of something that was bigger than myself. As a group we always debrief after every session and we all would talk about the small triumphs that happened that day and as the summer went on it was amazing to see those small triumphs turn into big triumphs," Moore said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kaileigh Krupp, a senior at Albion, is an exercise science major from Mason, Mich.
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