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Reading Buddies: Building Community and a Love of Reading

Reading Buddies: Building Community and a Love of Reading

By Melinda Kaufman, Director of Academic Affairs, formerly Lower School Director


There is nothing more heartwarming than seeing pairs of students reading together in the sunlit hallways, outside in the Zen Garden, or nestled together in a corner of the classroom. A closer look reveals an older student (3rd-5th Grade) paired with a younger student (K-2nd Grade), and as they huddle over a picture book with bright eyes and smiles, it is often hard to tell who is reading to whom, and who is enjoying themselves more.


Reading Buddies is a favorite activity among students and teachers and a wonderful way to build community within the Lower School. Teachers collaborate to form thoughtful partnerships between their students and then find a time every 1-2 weeks when their students can enjoy reading together. Students often take turns reading to each other; sometimes the older student might read to the younger student if it’s a more difficult book, or the younger student will read to the older student if they want extra practice reading aloud.


Participating in Reading Buddies benefits students in multiple ways. For younger students, they get to hear a more experienced reader model how to read fluently, with expression and phrasing, and they get 1:1 assistance as they build their own skills and practice reading aloud. Younger students can engage in conversations with their buddy about the books they’re reading and observe their buddy following the rules and demonstrating positive behavior. The buddy becomes a role model for them and someone who can offer encouragement and advice; they are in awe of them!


Older students benefit by being able to develop their own literacy skills and talking about books. If they happen to be a struggling reader, they can gain confidence by reading to a younger student in a less intimidating environment, often with an easier book. Because they are being looked up to, older students are motivated to behave responsibly and demonstrate positive character traits such as being patient and kind. Being a buddy gives them the opportunity to develop leadership and problem-solving skills in an authentic, meaningful way.


Reading Buddies provides an opportunity for students who wouldn’t normally interact with each other to connect and form lasting relationships. Buddies look forward to spending time together, and by engaging in this fun activity, students develop a love for reading and talking about books. Teachers often plan other projects or activities buddies can do together and support each other with, and buddies are always excited to see each other in the hallways, out at recess, or during an all-school event.


Most importantly, Reading Buddies is an example of how we develop connections within the Lower School as a way to intentionally build and support our Kehilah.