Book Buddies gets boost from alumnus Frank Beamer
As the football coach read aloud, he spelled out a few select words to the group of small children sitting on the floor in front of him.
“R-E-D,” he said
The children, many clad in maroon and orange and in awe of his presence, called out the word.
“Red,” they said in unison.
“C-O-L-D,” the coach continued.
“Cold,” the children said.
This went on for several minutes as Frank Beamer M.S. 72, the popular retired Virginia Tech head football coach and Radford University alumnus, sat in front of a group of more than 25 first graders at McHarg Elementary School in Radford, reading “How Rocket Learned to Read,” a story about how a playful puppy developed an interest and found joy in reading.
Beamer, who received his Master of Science degree in Guidance and Counseling in 1972 from then Radford College, visited McHarg Sept. 7 not only to read to the students, but to donate funds to the school for books and supplies.
The donation comes from Herma’s Readers, a literacy promotion foundation Beamer created in honor of his mother, Herma Beamer. She was an educator for more than 30 years and graduated in 1936 from what was then the Radford State Teachers College and later became Radford University.
Sitting with the students as Beamer read were 17 Radford University senior education majors who are part of the Book Buddies program and interns at McHarg.
Book Buddies is a partnership with Radford City Schools through which RU teacher education students in their final year tutor first-grade students one-on-one in reading and writing twice a week.
The education students visit McHarg each Tuesday and Thursday morning throughout the school year.
The tutors go through an initial training session, then receive ongoing training, support and feedback from experienced teachers in writing lesson plans, gathering materials and planning activities.
Wendy Martin coordinates the Book Buddies program at McHarg and said she is “thankful to have the opportunity to use the funds to get supplies for the Radford University tutors to use in teaching literacy and to get more books in the hands of our students.”
Having more books “will really inspire the children and help them realize how important reading is to them,” said Rachel Winland, an RU elementary education major from Springfield. “Reading really does apply to every single subject that they’ll be learning and everything they do in their lives.”
Winland said she was “blessed” to be a part of the Book Buddies program because, “I’m able to have an impact on one of those first graders and be able to have that connection with them and teach them how to read. I’m really excited for that.”
Through the donation, the first graders at McHarg “will to experience a variety of books, and that’s very important for younger children,” said Jordan Ballein of Blacksburg. “I still remember books I read at that age, like Junie B. Jones. So it sticks with you.”
After Beamer left the classroom, he walked outside the school and talked and posed for photos with the Radford University Book Buddies cohort. Just before the cameras flashed he asked them, “Who’s proud to have their master’s from Radford University?
“You are!” shouted one of the tutors.
“That’s right,” Beamer said. “Radford is a great school. You all should be proud, too, for sure.”