Book Buddies Program Helps Students Share Stories
The end of the school week at Mary J. Tanner Elementary School look a little different than the other days of the week. On Thursdays and Fridays, you can find third grade students, kindergarteners, and Pre-K classes congregated in either the music room or out on the courtyard when it’s warm enough.
That’s because those days are Book Buddies days, where third grade students get to practice and refine their reading skills by sharing stories with younger students. The program was created as a group by the faculty at MJT. Teachers were looking for new ways to have their third grade students engage with their reading comprehension skills, and what has grown from the program is more than what teachers expected.
“Our initial goal was to make sure our students were getting more opportunities to practice their reading in a creative setting, but it’s really become much more than that,” said Katie Fredette, a third grade teacher at MJT. “The students love getting to spend time with the younger kids, and they feel a true sense of responsibility to be a good role model for them. It’s helping build a feeling of togetherness throughout the entire school community.”
“It’s been so exciting to see how energized and enthusiastic the kindergarten and Pre-K students get knowing that Book Buddies day is coming up,” said Pre-K Teacher Tammy LaPointe. “It’s helped make the week more fun and engaging for all of our students, and it’s making learning fun.”
The year-long program incorporates lessons being taught in the classroom by selecting books that match a specific theme. For example, this past winter, students read Helen Lester’s Tacky the Penguin, which paired the Pre-K and kindergarten lessons about the winter season with an age-appropriate book for third graders to read. Mrs. LaPointe says tying in lessons outside of Book Buddies helps make a bigger impact in regards to information retention.
“Pairing the Book Buddies books to what we’re teaching helps encourage a student’s curiosity,” said Mrs. LaPointe. “It keeps our young students interested in the material, and it leads to questions that can allow us to explore an area that we might not have reached if it wasn’t for an older student sitting down with them and reading them a story.”
Not only does the program help third grade students practice their reading; it’s helping them build self-esteem. Mrs. Fredette credits Book Buddies with the growing confidence a student has in his/her own reading ability.
“It allows us to give our kids positive affirmation when it comes to reading comprehension,” Mrs. Fredette said. “You can see their confidence grow every week. They’re asking questions about certain words, and they’re even helping the younger students understand what one word means or what the author is saying. It’s empowering students to take control of the lesson.”
On top of the in-classroom work that’s being done with the program, Book Buddies is also creating a greater sense of community within the walls of Mary J. Tanner.
“It’s breaking down some of those anxious feelings in the hallway when one class passes another,” said Mrs. LaPointe. “The students get so excited when they see their reading buddies walking in the hall or in the cafeteria.”
“My students are always asking me when we pass one of their buddies if they can go up to them and say hi,” Mrs. Fredette said. “It’s so fun to see. They understand that they have to be a role model for the younger students, and the younger students don’t feel intimidated by the older students because of the relationships they build with each other.”
As students enjoy the time spent reading to each other throughout the day, teachers participating in the program say it gives them a chance to collaborate as a faculty.
“I cannot say enough amazing things about Mrs. LaPointe and what this program does for us as a staff,” Mrs. Fredette said. “Teachers can sometimes feel isolated inside their own classrooms, and Book Buddies allows for opportunities to bounce ideas off one another, and to pick up on tendencies that make for successful learning environments in different rooms.”
“We really do think of ourselves as a family at MJT,” said Mrs. LaPointe. “Getting time together throughout the year is invaluable. This is one of my favorite programs we do all year.”