By Ukee Washington

By Ukee Washington

CAMDEN, N.J., (CBS) – Volunteers in South Jersey have sparked a reading and writing revolution among school children. A program called BookMates pairs 300 adults with young students to read, learn, and even write together.

Mindy Fendrick and 8-year-old Marielle Ogando are BookMates. Mindy visits Marielle at Whittier Elementary School in Camden.

“She teaches me big words,” Marielle said.

Rhonda Shevrin, director of BookMates, explained, “We provide individual adults readers to go into at-risk schools and read one-on-one for thirty minutes a child.”

Mindy Fendrick, a BookMates volunteer, loves it: “The kids are so enthusiastic. They’re eager to learn, they’re eager to read.”

One BookMate volunteer isn’t just reading. Steve Hochman is helping 5th graders write their own book, Mister Fancy Dancer, about a young man who struggles.

Hochman explains, “He has a very bad speech problem. Every time ideas come into his head, they’re brilliant, but when they come out his mouth, they’re garbage.” And he explains everyone started bullying and picking on him. But with his skill at dance, he wins a contest!

“When kids are tuned in, their imaginations just go and they’re pure,” said Hochman.

The children wrote it, illustrated it, and are recording an audiobook version, learning different ways to present their stories.

“And now you can see how excited they are with writing,” Shevrin said.

The students are already working on a sequel.

If you’re interested in volunteering with BookMates, contact Rhonda Shevrin at (856) 751-9500 x1143 or by email at

To find out more about the book Mister Fancy Dancer, simply click the following link.

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