The Buddy Reading Phenomenon: Slice of Life #10

The Buddy Reading Phenomenon: Slice of Life #10

My students began asking me about little buddies within the first few weeks of school. What they didn’t understand is that I was also asking. I was new and it seemed that there were no primary classes not yet matched. The one teacher without a buddy class was reluctant. He asked for some time. One thing became another, on and on, as it goes in schools. Finally, I got a little creative and a titch manipulative. Okay, quite manipulative – with one good idea. I had my class write persuasive letters to the Grade 1 teacher about why we should be buddy classes. How could he resist a stack of heartfelt pleas from my Grade 4 and 5 students? Please? Please? Please!

We had our second session today and everyone is more than happy. My students are delighted and energized. The younger students are excited and intrigued. The staff attached to the Grade 1 class got 30 minutes to breathe today as they watched everyone engaged and well cared for. I confirmed what I have known for years. Buddy reading across grade levels is a magical thing.

Here are some of the things I observe:

  • Reluctant readers are often not reluctant connectors. It’s as much about the interactions as it is about the reading.
  • All kinds of books appeal to all kinds of kids. If your room is full of great books, not much can go wrong.
  • Sharing favourite characters is much superior to making small talk on route to a reading relationship. Who doesn’t love Piggie and Gerald?
  • A book in the middle removes the awkward of meeting someone new. As the story pulls you in, you are naturally pulled together.
  • Laughter is contagious. Distinct partners can become one massive mob when a book and a reader draw everyone in.
  • Children figure out the “release of responsibility” thing organically. My readers model and read and suddenly the little reader has taken over. The older child knows just when to shift back.
  • Patience is a gift. Time is a gift. Attention is a gift. Children are immensely generous.
  • Behaviours don’t arise between buddies, behaviours surface when a buddy is absent. Everyone wants to connect and to matter. *
  • Picture books prompt discussion. Buddy reading makes room for this talk to happen.
  • Being the teacher for those few moments is pretty spectacular. Allowing yourself to also be the learner makes it even more so.
  • Sharing a positive experience with someone else is a high. There is a lot of floating as everyone drifts back to the rest of their days.
  • The natural kid appeal between children is incredible to watch.

Did I mention that part of the magic is about all that buddy reading teaches us if we are ready to watch and observe?

* My job? Knowing which buddies can share and which buddy can be shared so that nobody feels left out if there is an absence.

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

17 thoughts on “The Buddy Reading Phenomenon: Slice of Life #10

  1. This is a worthwhile activity for your students. You show us why. I love the idea of having the kids do all the work, from writing letters to the teacher to the reading side by side. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a great list of reasons. As I read it I also noticed lots of opportunities to observe and listen in to students. I never thought of it as a wonderful opportunity for teachers to observe, listen in and collect formative data. You have me thinking…. thank you as always.
    Clare

  3. What a great post. So many good points here about the value and necessity of buddy reading. One that struck me was the need to matter. Reaching out beyond ourself is a gift we give ourselves. Kids need that experience.

  4. Yes! I especially love the wisdom and insight in this line: “Reluctant readers are often not reluctant connectors.” My son is a very reluctant reader but he’s a brilliant connector and school gives him almost no scope for this gift. On the rare occasions when he has been able to visit the elementary school and work with little kids, he just blossoms. It’s something to see. Thank you for pestering the Grade 1 teacher (brilliant idea to have your students write persuasive letters!) and thank you for finding a way for all of your students, even the reluctant readers, to build an identity as a reader!

  5. I’m glad you persevered/ My experience with cross grade-level buddy reading has always been positive. I especially like the list of what you have observed. These are so wise. I especially liked: “A book in the middle removes the awkward of meeting someone new. As the story pulls you in, you are naturally pulled together.”

    I realize you posted this on your blog, but it seems to me that you have the start for an article in a professional publication like Reading Teacher (IRA).

  6. We do a similar program here at the library called Reading Buddies, which pairs teenagers with school aged kids. For so many children it can just be so thrilling to have a “big kid” give them their full attention and show real interest in their thoughts and ideas. I’m so glad your program got off the ground – a little emotional manipulation can be a good thing! 😉

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