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Reading buddies hone skills
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Above, fifth-grader Jayland Walker (right) reads to kindergartner Vontae Gravely on a recent Friday as part of the “reading buddies” program at Albert Harris Elementary School. (Contributed photo)
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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A new reading buddies program at Albert Harris Elementary School is helping both beginning and older readers improve their skills.

Each Friday afternoon for the past two months, students from Erin Givens’ kindergarten class and Morgan Belton’s fifth-grade class have paired up and picked out books for the older students to read aloud to their buddies.

The program has helped improve the students’ reading performance, and it gives them other benefits as well, the teachers said.

“It encourages students to read and listen to stories as well as gives students an opportunity to work on social skills by working with students in a different grade and hopefully make a positive, lasting connection with reading,” said Principal Felicia Preston. “By working together, Ms. Belton and Ms. Givens are modeling exactly what we encourage our students to do.”

Sitting in one corner of Givens’ classroom on a recent Friday, fifth-grader Jayland Walker kept his arm protectively around kindergartner Vontae Gravely’s shoulders as he read aloud. The two boys have become close since they were paired up, Givens said. Vontae even called Jayland his “new big brother.”

“It’s cool. He’s my favorite book buddy,” Vontae said.

“It’s fun,” Jayland said. “I like coming to see him every Friday.”

The younger students “crave that individual attention from someone who’s not their teacher,” Givens said.

“There’s a lot of mentoring going on,” Belton said. “They feel like they have someone to look up to.”

Not only do students enjoy the program, “you can tell a difference in their reading,” Givens said.

“It’s really improving my kids’ fluency, comprehension and confidence,” Belton said. Reading aloud to a younger student is less intimidating and puts students more at ease with reading, the teachers said.

In Givens’ and Belton’s classrooms, the reading buddies spread out with their books. Some sit on the carpet while others curl up on beanbag chairs under a table. “I always let them pick where they want to sit so they’re comfortable,” Belton said.

As they read aloud, the fifth-graders asked the kindergartners reading comprehension questions and asked them to identify different letters or words.

“What is he talking about here? What is he looking for outside?” fifth-grader Darius Deal asked his reading buddy, Sha’Miya Thomas, after reading a page of their book. He gently guided her finger along the page to underline each word as she sounded it out.

At a table in Belton’s room, kindergartner Ashley Simacek listened to fifth-graders Jada Oliver-Wright and Sharita Trotter read The Little Mermaid. Then, she decided she wanted to read the story back to them and ask them questions, just like they did with her.

Preston said she is encouraging other teachers to try the reading buddies program.


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