Reading program started by Barrett Honors College students helps instill a love of reading in kids

Page Turners open to all ASU students to lead reading sessions at Tempe Public Library


A college student wearing a mask read a book to a 7-year-old girl who is turning the pages
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7-year-old Mila Samara is very proud of her reading and spelling skills.

“I’m a really good reader, and I really love it. I know how to spell a lot, too. I can spell unicorn, U-N-I-C-O-R-N, and other hard words,” said Mila, a second grader at a Tempe elementary school.

In addition to working hard in school, Mila has been aiming to perfect her reading as a participant in Page Turners, a program led by students in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. She and her older sister, Vida, who is in fifth grade, have been in Page Turners for several years and enjoy getting together with peers and university students to read.

“It’s fun. We get to read with buddies and learn to like books and reading,” 10-year-old Vida said.  

Page Turners, which promotes literacy and helps elementary school students improve their reading and language comprehension, is a free program started by Barrett students in 2014 in partnership with the Tempe Public Library.

The group is made up mostly of Barrett Honors College students, who meet with youngsters each week throughout the school year at the Tempe Public Library to read and discuss books. The focus is on instilling an interest and love of reading and helping children become more fluent and confident readers. Page Turners is open to university students of all majors; it is not necessary to be an honors student to join.

Page Turners took a break from in-person reading sessions during the pandemic and offered some reading sessions online. It is now back in full swing this semester with about 14 kids participating in person and one-on-one with reading buddies.

Nicole Perry, a Barrett senior majoring in biochemistry and Page Turners president, said her commitment to the group is personal.

“I grew up with a strong connection to the public library. I remember always being excited to go to the library and get books. It’s something I enjoyed doing, and with Page Turners, I can pass on to kids that you can have a good time reading,” she said.

Mila and Vida’s mom, Vesna Fiser Samara, said her daughters have thrived in the program.

“It’s free, and it’s fun. They learn to read and to write. They read everything they’re interested in, and they’re both excelling,” she said.

Photo of Daniel Oesterle and Derion Davis

Barrett Honors College student Daniel Oesterle reads with fifth-grader Derion Davis during a recent Page Turners session. Photo courtesy of Nicole Greason/Barrett Honors College

Natasha Davis, whose son Derion is a fifth-grader who has participated in Page Turners since he was in the first grade, said, “This is an amazing program.”

“He’s always had a reading buddy. He’s a speed reader, and it helps him slow down, concentrate and focus on his reading,” she said.

Derion said he enjoys spending time in Page Turners.

“I like it. You come and read books and do games, and afterwards you can get a prize. It’s kinda pretty fun,” he said.

Daniel Oesterle, a sophomore in Barrett majoring in biomedical sciences, is Derion’s reading buddy.

Oesterle said he was looking for an opportunity to get involved in community service when he found Page Turners.

“I feel like I’m contributing to the community through Page Turners. It’s gratifying to have a positive relationship with kids and help them with reading and communications skills,” he said. 

ASU students interested in joining Page Turners can find more information about the club here.  

Top photo: Second-grader Mila Samara reads with Barrett Honors College student Kaitlyn Takeno during a recent meeting of Page Turners at the Tempe Public Library. Photo courtesy of Nicole Greason/Barrett Honors College

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