Reading Buddies program boosts student literacy and self confidence

By Wendy Sledd

Special to Leader-Press


 Research has consistently shown that reading aloud to young children can help them build thinking skills and comprehension. The more you read with children, the better they will understand words and sentences on their own as they develop.

Martin Walker Elementary fourth grade and kindergarten teachers coordinated to form Reading Buddies where the school’s youngest scholars are read to by fourth graders who are selected based on their positive behavior choices. 

Fourth grader Anberlin Esparza said she enjoyed the experienced as much as the 5-year-olds did. 

“The kindergarteners sat quietly and answered my questions when I finished reading the book. When they didn’t know the answer, I would help them,” Esparza said. “I enjoyed reading to Mrs. Akui’s class. The other students enjoyed me reading to them also.”  

Kindergarten teacher Kathryn Akui said even if young students aren’t yet independent readers, reading aloud to them encourages their curiosity and to think about new ideas.

“They really enjoyed listening to the fourth graders read stories as well as interacting with older students and recognizing them around campus after having them in the classroom,” Akui said. “Our goal is to build a shared love of reading and expand our classroom community with another.”  

Reading aloud is especially beneficial during the early school years, as it can help young children understand and process new information better. The kindergarteners were invited to summarize the story they heard for added benefits. The kindergarten students enjoyed retelling and dramatizing stories which improved their comprehension and language development. 

Fourth grade teacher Kelly Rivas said the read-aloud also benefits the older students as well.   

“Reading buddies came about because I was thinking of a way to give my students an opportunity to be leaders outside of our classroom and form positive relationships with younger students in the school. As a reading teacher I was also hoping to find an opportunity to boost their reading confidence,” Rivas said. “The first day we did it, I had some students who were hesitant to read to other students. But their classmates cheered them on, and they had the best time.  They were so excited to tell me about their experiences. They loved the opportunity to be the teacher and help younger students learn and grow.”

In addition to building comprehension, vocabulary, and language skills, the Reading Buddies program is also building relationships said kindergarten teacher Sarah Yokubaitis. 

“The kindergarteners and fourth graders cross paths at recess every day and I think that creating those positive relationships will make our school stronger overall,” Yokubaitis said. “I hope that this activity inspires my kindergarteners to keep working on their reading skills so they too can read to others.”  

In addition to the many other benefits of reading aloud, young students also develop good listening habits which is crucial for learning and academic success. Reading aloud can help develop good habits by teaching children to sit still, listen intently, and take in what they hear.

“This experience was better than I could have imagined,” Rivas said. “This will be a weekly experience for our students and my fourth graders are so excited for the day that kindergarteners are able to come and read to them.”  

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