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McCormick Student Wins National Prize, Scholarship for Starting Reading Program

The Pearson Foundation has honored a McCormick junior with its prestigious $10,000 National Fellows Prize award for 2011.

Timi Chu, a biomedical engineering and Spanish double major and a corps member with Northwestern's Center for Civic Engagement's Jumpstart program, was one of 20 students selected from a national pool of approximately 20,000 applicants. She was chosen in large part on the basis of her establishment of Book Buddies, an early readers’ program, in partnership with the Evanston Public Library this past January.

The National Fellows Prize recognizes top college students across the nation for their demonstrated leadership in community service. The award includes a $10,000 scholarship, along with the chance to network with the other Fellows from across the nation at an all-expenses-paid, two-day summit in Washington D.C.

McCormick junior Timi ChuChu created the Book Buddies program as part of her work as a Jumpstart Corps member in the Evanston community. Jumpstart, based at Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement, is an early education program that trains college students to work in local preschools helping children from low-income communities develop the literacy and language skills they will need to be successful in school.

Chu founded Book Buddies after speaking with Rick Kinnebrew, the children’s outreach librarian at the Evanston Public Library, about the need for more enrichment opportunities for Evanston’s elementary school children. Book Buddies brings Evanston children and Northwestern volunteers together at the library every Friday afternoon to do reading, arts and crafts, and group activities, encouraging children to get excited about books and reading.

“Parents find that it’s good for their kids to be read to by someone other than themselves or the teacher,” Chu said. “It helps with their cognitive development and the group activities expand on the skills they learn at school.”

This fall, Chu and Jumpstart also received a grant of nearly $8,000 from the Evanston Community Foundation (ECF) for Book Buddies’ 2011-12 school year. The grant from ECF will further enhance the program by providing each child with a free book to take home at the end of each session.

The program has grown rapidly since its inception in January. A typical session now connects around 15 local children with 15 Northwestern volunteer readers each week.

“It is really helpful for my daughter’s development,” said Priyanka Khanna, who brings her 14-month-old toddler to most Friday sessions. “She recognizes rhymes from here on television and tries to interact during the activities.”

Book Buddies is open to all children up to age 10 and meets every Friday from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Barbara Friedberg Storytelling Room in the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.

-- Center for Civic Engagement