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The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss, "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!"

Eighteen years ago, four lay leaders with a passion for community service dedicated their time to promote literacy throughout the community. The Be A Reader (BeAR) literary program, as part of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, was created as a community-wide effort of volunteers to help at-risk, struggling readers acquire the skills and love for learning that lead to personal happiness and future success. Since 1999, more than 1,200 children have benefitted from the program.

BeAR is in eight Title I elementary schools and pairs a volunteer mentor with a student for an hour each week.  BeAR provides students with at least five books for their at-home library, school supplies, and a time commitment each week throughout the school year. Because there is no shortage of children that need assistance, the program’s capacity is solely dependent on the number of volunteers that sign up.

Research shows that up until third grade, children learn to read. Beginning in fourth grade, children read to learn. If the child has not yet mastered reading, they begin a downward spiral that is difficult to correct. Receiving even minimal intervention by third grade, research shows that the opportunity to improve increases dramatically.

The goal of the Community Relations Council's BeAR program is to help at-risk children in Tidewater public schools acquire the reading skills and love of learning that lead to personal happiness and success.

The volunteers and children read aloud once a week at elementary schools in Norfolk and Virginia Beach and work on spelling, vocabulary, and classroom reading assignments. Beyond the reading, the volunteers also provide these students with a sense of stability and become more of a mentor as the relationship progresses. 

Volunteer Opportunities

Join with other people in our community who are helping children learn to read, and help make a difference in a child's life. Most children blossom with individual attention from a caring adult. You can be that person.

BeAR is currently involved in the following schools:

  • Chesterfield Academy Elementary
  • Granby Elementary
  • Larrymore Elementary
  • Birdneck Elementary
  • College Park Elementary
  • Lynnhaven Elementary
  • Park Place Elementary
  • Tallwood Elementary
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To learn more about the BeAR program, please contact Melissa Eichelbaum at 757-965-6107 or email

The Be A Reader program, as part of the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, is generously supported by Nancy and Chuck Rosenblatt honoring Doris Rosen and Trudy Rosenblatt. 

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