Reading Buddies: Older kids working with younger ‘buddies’

The benefits of New Morning School’s Reading Buddies program are many. Not only does it promote reading for everyone, but also helps bring two diverse age groups together. Every week throughout the years, preschoolers are paired with elementary students and kindergarten students are paired with middle schoolers. The older students read to the younger ones.

“When our students transition from preschool to kindergarten, they have to walk past the middle school classroom on the way to their kindergarten classroom,” said Dr. Cheryl Blau, a middle school teacher. In seeing the bigger middle school students, the need for getting the younger students acclimated. Thus, the groups were paired up as what is known as Reading Buddies.

“This way, from the very start of the school year, the kindergarteners begin getting to know the oldest students in our school,” Blau said. “This helps ease their transition to a new part of the school building and makes them more comfortable being around the middle schoolers. In addition, the relationships they share strengthen and deepen throughout their remaining years at New Morning School.”

Christine Jansen, an elementary teacher, also sees the benefits as far as developing levels of comfort and good relationships. 

Reading: Good for students of all ages

“Reading Buddies is good for both age groups,” she said. “It gives our students a chance to be a leader. They build friendships with younger students and love to teach them and talk with them.

“It makes them feel good that younger friends look up to them.”

Marisa Downs, who teaches preschool, said there are so many benefits to her students — as well as the older students.

“Reading Buddies are great,” she said. “Before we begin, I look over the class lists and pair up children carefully. I take a lot into consideration: their reading level, their attention span, their personality and their level of patience.”

Downs explained the students are educated in how to share a book, how to read with excitement, how to be a good listener “and even how to greet your buddy,” Downs said. “Throughout the year, we coach the kids as needed and are always nearby observing.”

It’s apparent there’s usually a real bonding process between older and younger students. Often, students make gifts for their buddies. They truly enjoy the program.

Older students enjoy presence of younger ones

“We get to hang out with the little kids and they say funny things,” said Mariana, a middle school student. “I also feel like I’m teaching them about reading.”

Mariana’s younger brother Cameron (an elementary student) also enjoys seeing the younger students enjoy the program.

“They are so cute and it’s so fun,” he said.

It’s more than fun, however. There are tangible benefits to the program. Students learn the appropriate books to choose, which creates a love of reading. In addition to helping with social and emotional development, the relationships that develop help create a caring community.

“Even our struggling middle school readers are able to read to their kindergarten reading buddies, giving them an opportunity to demonstrate strength and build confidence in their ability to read,” Blau said. “In addition, it is a beautiful thing to see the little ones sitting in the laps of their Reading Buddies enjoying a good story, to hear the Middle Schoolers use different voices for different characters as they read, and to witness the facial expressions and giggles from young and old alike as each story unfolds.”