The Reading Buddies program connects volunteers with local schools, where they read with one student for 30 minutes every week. This support helps kids get on track – and stay on track – with grade-level literacy. We know that children who read at or above grade-level are more likely to succeed in school and in life. Our dedicated Reading Buddies volunteers are helping to change the course of students’ academic futures. Join us!


Reading Buddies is a United Way-led initiative in partnership with Spartanburg Academic Movement, Jesse Bobo Elementary School, Lone Oak Elementary School, and community volunteers. Kindergarten students receive weekly reading support from Reading Buddies volunteers to increase reading achievement in the early grades.

By third grade, reading proficiency shifts from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” “Learning to read” happens when quality early care and brain development meet the teaching of literacy skills from kindergarten onward. If children cannot read proficiently in third grade, they fall behind. And, the academic gap will grow each year thereafter. The Reading Buddies program seeks to change the course of students’ academic futures by providing reading support in the early grades.

Reading Buddies takes place at Jesse Bobo and Lone Oak Elementary Schools, both part of Spartanburg School District 6. These schools were selected based on Spartanburg Academic Movement’s research and intervention in the elementary schools with the highest poverty levels in the county, two of which are Jesse Bobo and Lone Oak.

Classroom teachers at each school recommend students who are poised to improve their reading skills with the extra support and encouragement that Reading Buddies volunteers provide.

Reading Buddies volunteers come from all walks of life across Spartanburg County. Each semester, around 60 community members participate as volunteers in Reading Buddies. Manufacturing employees, college students, executive directors, retirees, bank executives, and human resource professionals are all part of our diverse group of volunteers.

Absolutely. All Reading Buddies volunteers must pass a background check prior to beginning with the program. The background check is conducted through Sterling Volunteers, and there is no cost to the volunteers for the background check.

Any adult can apply to become a Reading Buddy. Once United Way of the Piedmont receives the completed application, a background check will be prompted. Applicants with clear background checks are then required to complete training and fill out a Code of Conduct prior to receiving a student assignment.

Classroom teachers determine when students are able to participate in Reading Buddies sessions based on instruction schedules. In the past, reading time has started as early as 7:30AM and as late as 2:00PM. Your availability will be considered by United Way of the Piedmont when student and team assignments are made.

A unique aspect of United Way of the Piedmont’s Reading Buddies program is that all volunteers are placed into teams of three that work with the same student throughout the week. If you need to miss a week or simply switch times with one of your teammates, communicating with your team is the best way to make sure your student receives the support they need. If your team is unable to cover your time slot, we ask you to notify the teacher as soon as possible so your student can be informed and will not be surprised by your absence.

Absolutely! However, because Reading Buddies sessions are individual, you will need to extend your time commitment to work with multiple students throughout the week.