Who we are

Husky Reads volunteers are UConn undergraduates who visit public pediatric clinics in Hartford to read books and play games with children waiting for appointments with their medical providers. The program is modeled on the national Reach Out and Read Program (ROAR*) and is funded by Connecticut Food Stamp Nutrition Education and the University of Connecticut. All games, educational materials and activities that our volunteers use in the clinics integrate literacy and nutrition education.

Husky Reads provides UConn students with experiences working with children in clinical settings, which is expecially useful to students planning to apply to professional programs or graduate school in health sciences, family studies, education, and the social sciences. For some students, the motivation to participate is that they are able to practice Spanish in a friendly, low-stress environment. For others, this experience gives them a way to get off campus once a week and to "play" with the children at the sites.

Students participating in Husky Reads make a commitment to volunteer four hours per week for the whole semester. This time block includes two hours per week in the clinic plus round-trip transportation time to Hartford, usually 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cooperating clinics include the Primary Care Clinics at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, St. Francis Hospital, and the Burgdorf Clinic and the City of Hartford WIC Clinics. Transportation to Hartford is the responsibility of the volunteer. However, if volunteers do not have their own vehicles, the Husky Reads staff will work to facilitate alternatives, such as the use of vehicles from the Center for Community Outreach or riding with fellow-students.

Participating students may volunteer for the program, receive credit in Nutritional Sciences 281, or use their federal work-study funding. Students enrolled for course credit are also required to attend regularly scheduled discussion group meetings and training sessions (5 per semester), write a reflective journal entry each time they visit the site, and complete a one-day Hartford-based community service project.

Students who have successfully completed one semester of Husky Reads are eligible to apply for more advanced opportunities in community nutrition, such as teaching cooking and nutrition classes in after school programs, becoming involved in research projects, and working directly with dietitians in community settings on special projects. Students who participate in these experiences can enroll for credit in Nusc 281 or occasionally, we are able to offer paid employment opportunities.

For additional information on the program, please contact the Husky Reads staff, via e-mail, huskyreads@uconn.edu or phone at 486-0027.

*www.reachoutandread.org

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