Education Stories of Impact

Book Mentor Profile: Raina Dyer-Barr and Jay Barr


Raina and Jay, a husband and wife team, will be book mentors this year in their 5-year-old son Xavier’s class at the Champaign Early Childhood Center. As volunteers with Illinois Public Media’s Book Mentor Project, they will read to the pre-schoolers and do a related activity with them. Keep reading to find out why they're excited about the project.

Raina, a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Illinois College of Education, was a mentor last year. This year her husband Jay, an attorney, will join her.

Why did you become a book mentor?

Raina: I thought it would be a good way to volunteer in my son’s classroom, to see how he’s interacting with the other students.
Jay: My wife talked about it so positively that I thought it would be fun for us to do together. I’m self-employed, so I’m able to schedule the time to do it.

What do you enjoy about it, or for Jay, think you will enjoy?

Raina: When the kids in the classroom see me coming, they’re really excited to hear the story and do the activity. I hope we’re showing the kids that we like to read, that it’s fun, and that maybe we can influence them to like reading, too.
Jay: I’m looking forward to interacting with the kids.

What are you reading now?

Raina: The novel Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn.
Jay: Kill Anything that Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam.

What book did you love reading as a child?

Raina: We went to the library all the time and got lots of books. In junior high, I liked Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews and other books in the Dollanganger Series.
Jay: My mom’s a school librarian so I also read a lot. I liked The Hardy Boys books, but they haven’t held up too well with the passage of time.

What book did your book mentor students seem to enjoy the most?
Raina: Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews. It’s a counting book that is really simple, but the kids love it.