Reading Buddies. Just typing it brings a smile to my face. When I was teaching kindergarten and first grade, my students always had Reading Buddies (older students from a partner class). The older buddies usually came weekly to read with my students and do a fun activity.
Having a Reading Buddy program in my classroom is one of the things I missed when I was teaching Reading Recovery. When I became a special education teacher (providing literacy support to students up to the third grade), I set up buddy reading between some of my third grade students and snacking Kindergarten students. Half of them were interested when I first suggested bringing their ‘most practiced’ books to kindergarten, weekly, during recess. After the first month, I had to create a sign-up sheet! The first set of ‘big buddies’ were so excited about their new role, the rest wanted in. They had always had older Reading Buddies. Now they got to become them!
When participation is voluntary, both younger and older students benefit in so many ways.
The ‘Little Buddies’ benefit from:
- hearing stories read-aloud (modeling of reading fluency, phrasing and expression)
- having conversations with an older student about topics that interest and involve them (extending their vocabulary, oral language abilities)
- having regular opportunities to practice familiar reading with 1:1 assistance
- enjoying fun, positive experiences with ‘big kid’ who is now a recognizable face in the school community
The ‘Big Buddies’ benefit from:
- further developing their own literacy skills
- fostering leadership and problem-solving skills
- improved self-confidence that comes from being looked-up to
- a very real and important reason to be responsible, and an opportunity to be ‘caught’ (and praised) for positive behavior
- bragging rights
Reading Buddies programs promote a higher interest and engagement in reading, improvement in social and communication skills, particularly for students learning English as a second language. And, most importantly, it’s just FUN.
What are your experiences with Reading Buddies?
The language opportunities, rise in self-esteem and sense of purpose always impress me when buddies are learning together!