Student reading buddies is a form of peer mentoring and it’s a powerful tool that actually isn’t used enough in school.

How does student reading buddies work?

Studies suggest that by partnering high achieving students, it can create a positive impact on a student’s learning. Those students who are older and more capable of reading are often a peer for young students. This is where the concept of reading buddies comes into effect.

Reading Buddies is a concept that pairs different levels of ability in reading terms for reading time in the classroom. For example, you would pair a lower-grade student with an upper-grade student during reading time. In this article we’ll cover everything ranging from reading buddies benefits and reading buddies rules to reading buddies activities.

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How to establish a student reading buddies program

To establish your very own reading buddies program in the classroom is actually pretty simple. You just need to pair an upper-grade student with a lower grade student. This works best in pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school. For example, fourth graders pair with first graders, third graders pair with pre-kindergarteners or kindergartners, and fifth graders pair with second graders.

Whilst you can increase the group sizes to 3 students, it’s best to allow them to work in pairs to gain the full benefit of the program. Allow 30 minutes a month for these two students to read together.

Simply gather students in a library, outside on a sunny day, or in the classroom. Allow the younger student to choose the book so that they can read something they’re actually excited to read. As time moves forward, older students can share their favorite books with younger students.

As the year progresses, the skills of the younger readers will increase and this welcomes the opportunity for students to take turns reading to each other. This provides a chance for everyone to shine.

The benefits of this type of reading buddies program are excellent:
  1. It allows younger readers to witness what being a fluent reader looks like with a positive role model that shows a high standard of reading. The older student acts as a form of inspiration.
  2. It also benefits the older student too as they develop their social skills and create emotional skills such as empathy and patience working with their little buddies.
  3. Also, it’s not just younger students who benefit. For upper elementary students who may be struggling with grade-level reading, the reading buddies program provides them with a chance to find reading material which is easier for them to read without feeling shy or embarrassed.

Overall, the roots of school community increase and deepen with this form of a program as various classes across the school share and work together.

Emotional and social benefits

Of course, you may worry about the behavior or reading level of the older students, but this is actually an opportunity that they may need. When students are provided with the freedom to be better or to work for something bigger than themselves, they actually thrive.

It helps those students who are currently not on grade level reading by providing them with a chance to practice with books they perhaps otherwise wouldn’t choose. It can also give them a much-needed confidence boost as they read to a fascinated kindergartner.

It is also potential for success for those students who suffer from behavior difficulties.

Consider this story:
  • Let’s call a student Jake. He is a 5th grader who has attention problems and he reads at a 1st-grade level, but he has an amazing heart.
  • His teacher was worried about his success, so he partnered Jake with a kindergarten class for Reading Buddies. Jake is then paired with Micheal who has his own set of difficulties such as aggression, and defiance.
  • On initial meeting they got on fine, but their relationship began to blossom after a few sessions.
  • One day, on his way to meet with Michael, Jake saw him being rude to a teacher outside a classroom.
  • Once they reached the reading buddies area, Jake put his arm around Michael and gave him the Don’t be like me speech. This created mutual respect as Michael could relate to Jake and vice versa.
  • Over time, the teachers worked out a program where Michael could go spend time with Jake outside of reading buddies both as an intervention and as a reward.

This enabled a positive relationship for both students as Micheal gained a role model and Jake had someone to mentor which helped him develop other emotional skills.

This program of cooperative learning is an excellent way to create a sense of community in a school environment and to encourage reading. Reading Buddies excites both sets of students as its a chance to have fun, make friends and get out of class!

With thoughtfulness and cooperation, the relationships created between students can expand beyond just one school year and continue beyond reading books. It allows the creation of emotional and social lessons and the chance of powerful moments and connections to be formed. These amazing benefits are all from just sharing a simple book.

Student reading buddies summary

Funding books can be a costly task for any teacher, especially with teachers receiving low pay and the lack of funding for schools at the moment. So if you’re interested in a reading buddies program but are worried about the cost of books, you can sign up to Classful to raise funds for your classroom and students today!