Books on Tape Program JUMPSTARTs Early Learning

Ben Whelan

You may have noticed them all over campus, students curled up in conference rooms, staircases and other little nooks and crannies all over campus reading books aloud. Are they crazy? No. Social pariahs? Try again. These students are giving their time and energy to give back in a program called Jumpstart Books on Tape.

Jumpstart is a national organization with a focus on education. As their website explains, “Jumpstart ensures that those children most at-risk still reach this promise. By providing extraordinary attention in yearlong one-to-one relationships, Jumpstart inspires children to learn, adults to teach and communities to progress together.” Jumpstart has been a presence on the UMass Boston campus for many, many years, and over that time have run countless programs to help people in the UMass and Boston communities who need assistance reaching their full potential.

This semester, the Books on Tape program is one of the main foci for the organizations and its student volunteer coordinator, Kristen Chan, who is also the Vice President of the Undergraduate Student Senate. The program is enlisting volunteers to pick a children’s book and read it into a tape recorder. The tapes will then be distributed to Jumpstarts partner pre-schools and to children who do not have someone at home to read stories to them. The goal is that older children will be able to follow along and help themselves on their quest to learn to read while younger children will be able to listen to and enjoy the wonderful stories in the books. The program has been used over the years by many Jumpstart coordinators, and this year Chan decided to resurrect it.

“We were fortunate enough to partner with Barnes and Noble Brookline through their Holiday Book Drive, of which we were the recipient, and we received over 700 books,” Chan explained. “We want to reach out to our kids who don’t have [an] English-speaking parent or family member at home, so we recorded the books on to audio tapes, and we will be delivering them to out five partner pre-schools in Dorchester this week.”

Chan became the Jumpstart volunteer coordinator last September after being a member for some time. Last year Chan was a core member working directly with the children in the pre-schools and enjoyed it so much that she wanted to come back this fall and be a part of it. Unfortunately for her, but luckily for us, Chan’s busy schedule did not afford her the time to make pre-school visits and she was asked to take over as coordinator of the program, a role which she graciously accepted. “I felt like that was a good position for me because I have good organization skills and I like to run events.”

While many of the programs receiving books on tape have not participated in the program for a long time, or at all, most of the representatives reached for this story remained extremely optimistic.