According to Reading is Fundamental, the United States is enveloped in a literacy crisis. Millions of children and adults alike have been affected through what they call a “never-ending cycle of educational disadvantage.” According to Reading is Fundamental, a student’s first three years of schooling are the most critical in developing literacy skills — in fact, “65 percent of fourth graders read at or below the basic level.” We know that first, second, and third grade are incredibly important for ensuring that students are prepared to tackle a more advanced curriculum. With that being said, what steps are being taken in schools to promote the strengthening of literacy skills in their youngest students?
I know of one program in particular that I actively participated in throughout elementary school: Reading Buddies.
For the Reading Buddies program at my elementary school, fourth and fifth graders were paired with first and second graders to read aloud to each other. Through the implementation of “partner classes,” in which one older elementary school class is matched with one younger elementary school class, the reading buddies would have the opportunity to develop relationships throughout the course of the school year.
When I was in fifth grade, I was paired with a second grade student from my class’s partner class. We would read together once a week for around half an hour at a time. As the older Reading Buddy, I got to choose who read and who listened for each book. A lot of the time, my buddy and I would take turns reading the same book paragraph-by-paragraph.
As you can imagine, there are a number of benefits to be gained by both younger and older reading buddies. According to Teacher Vision, through reading aloud to younger students, older students have the opportunity to further develop their fluency. Similarly, Teacher Vision also highlights that older students can develop a sense of accomplishment and heightened self-esteem through reading and promoting literacy in younger students. This fluency and sense of accomplishment can also be achieved in younger students when they are given the opportunity to read to their older buddies.
The Reading Buddies program definitely should not be limited to just older-younger elementary school pairs. Reading Buddies can also include the involvement of high schoolers, college students, parents, or just community members in general.
In the Fairfax County Public School System, the benefits for Reading Buddies are even more pronounced:
As the video explains, the reading buddies in Daniels Run Elementary School are composed of of elementary school students and ESOL high school students. ESOL high school students get the unique opportunity to further develop their English skills (i.e. fluency and pronunciation) while also helping kindergarteners and first grade students develop theirs.
I really enjoyed my time as a reading buddy at my elementary school — both as a younger student and as an older student. As a younger student, I had the opportunity to grow a relationship with an older student while also working on my fluency skills. As an older student, I was able to mentor a younger student and grow a sense of accomplishment and confidence in doing so.
Did your school have a Reading Buddies program? If so, how was your experience as a buddy?