Columbia University is Read Ahead’s largest partner in NYC
The Office of Government and Community Affairs at Columbia University works with Read Ahead to match interested faculty, students and staff with children at nearby elementary schools. Mentors engage in fun weekly sessions for reading and conversation from September to May. Columbia is the largest partner organization in NYC, providing volunteers to P.S. 36 and P.S. 125. Mentors provide one-on-one attention that gives children the confidence, motivation, and skills to succeed.
One such Columbia University mentor is Brian Chapman, Deputy Vice President, Office of Alumni and Development. He was recently recognized by Read Ahead as a Featured Mentor and below is a Q&A held between Chapman and Read Ahead leadership.
Why did you choose to be a Read Ahead mentor?
I chose to do Read Ahead because the invitation to participate came to me just as I was getting ready to publish my first children’s book. I wanted to participate in a program that would help me better understand and connect to my target audience. In reality, what I got was a program that makes me a better person every single week.
What is the best part of being a Read Ahead mentor?
The best part of being a Read Ahead mentor is building a week-by-week relationship with Chris. We talk about things week to week and have built a base for conversation while we play games. I mentor on Meatless Mondays at school and Chris hardly ever likes what he is served. But we joke about it and I tease him about it and we have a laugh every single week because we are getting to know each other well enough to have inside jokes. That’s pretty cool.
I ❤ Read Ahead because it takes me out of the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life in New York and puts me at a small desk with a small person having a big impact for one hour a week. I look forward to it every single time.
Tell us about your favorite book or activity in Read Ahead so far.
I’d love to say that my favorite activity had to do with a transformative book. But the truth is that my favorite thing that we have done together is to play Go Fish (the card game). Chris, while a master-level player of Fortnite, didn’t yet know how to play cards when we started getting together. I taught him Go Fish and every single week he asks to play it. While we are working on learning strategy and such, the best part about it is just sharing this very simple, very fun game that he will be able to play his whole life. And seeing how much he enjoys it.
Can you share a favorite story, anecdote, or moment that really resonated with you from your time as a mentor?
So I am really into dogs (I even wrote my book about them) and Chris’s family recently got a dog. I asked him the dog’s name and he gave what I know now to be his signature move (a favorite among 10-year-olds): a shrug. This game of “what’s your dog’s name” went on for a few weeks, when I know perfectly well that he knows the dog’s name but is just playing with me because of my thing for dogs. I just really enjoyed that he feels comfortable enough with me, and understands me a little bit, to know how to have a gently teasing relationship. The realization of that was a nice moment.
I joined this program to read with a child. What I did was find a meaningful connection with a young person. It is so much better than I expected.