Summer Buds is a literacy development program started by Yale students through Dwight Hall in 2006. During the summer when school is out, Yale students stay active in volunteering by tutoring a group of middle-achieving students from John C. Daniels and Wexler-Grant Middle Schools in twice-weekly hour-and-a-half reading sessions at the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.
The “Bigs” and the “Littles” are paired up and select a book to read with each other, talk about the books and reactions to the stories with each other, and imagine alternative scenarios or placing themselves within the context of the story. Bigs also assist the Littles in writing their reflections and interpretations of the stories in journals to work on reading comprehension and conceptualization.
A wide selection of books are available which exposes the middle schoolers to a variety of different topics and genres, allowing them to develop and explore their preferences and interests. In the short span of the program the middle school Littles typically show an increased interest and knowledge of the range of stories and opportunities for reading available, as well as improving their vocabulary and general passion for reading and storytelling. Through educational field trips and connections with peer groups they have been provided with the ability to experience a greater connection to the community, and many have obtained library cards and taken books home to read on their own.
Also, perhaps most importantly, the Littles have been able to form a connection with their mentors and view them as role models which can in turn have an influence their own aspirations for the future. This can act as a way of familiarizing kids with a college environment and fostering increased comfort with eventual continued educational immersion. It also provides a meaningful summer volunteer opportunity that accommodates Yale students who are in New Haven during the summer working in full-time jobs or internships, taking classes, or conducting research. The Littles admire and look up to their Bigs, and the Bigs in turn often continue their involvement in community tutoring programs and retain a connection to their Little even after the summer program has ended.
Summer Buds also transitions into an academic year Dwight Hall program called Yale Bookmarks, offering an opportunity for year-round support.
Summer Buds is a product of Dwight Hall’s Summer Fellowship Program, a paid program which provides sponsorship for Yale students to propose a project to address critical needs in the New Haven community needs over the course of eight weeks in the summer. The Summer Fellows typically work in established nonprofits or, in the case of Summer Buds, work at continuing and sustaining a program developed by Dwight Hall and maintained by Summer Fellows of the past. This year Summer Buds was organized and maintained by Ben Lash, a graduating senior, and made possible with support from the Yale College Class of 1949.