One recent afternoon, the Class 2 students, colorful books tucked under their arms, followed their teacher out of the classroom, through the door in the hallway and down the stairs. Several girls whispered excitedly as they made their way. Arriving on the second floor, the students entered Room 21, a Kindergarten classroom.
“Do you see your buddies?” asked Class 2 Associate Teacher Chelsea Sue. Her students scanned the eager faces of the Kindergartners, searching for their special person. Moments later, pairs (and, because of absences, a few trios) of older and younger students settled into comfortable spots around the classroom – at tables, sitting cross-legged on the red rug or tucked into a corner by the blocks.
Quiet enveloped the room on this particular afternoon as the students escaped into their stories. The soft voices of the older students, reading aloud to their buddies, were the only discernable sounds.
Occurring once a six-day cycle from January until June, the longstanding Reading Buddies program offers myriad benefits. “Each year the girls are paired together to strengthen their inter-grade relations,” explained Kindergarten Head Teacher Jennifer Ellis. “The program also gives all of the students (both Kindergarten and Class 2) the opportunity to strengthen their reading skills by providing fun, engaging and authentic reasons to read.”
Before the buddies began their reading sessions, they engaged in friendly, “getting to know you” conversations that centered on each other’s likes, families and interests. During the final get-together in the spring, they plan to celebrate the year – and their new friendships – with a shared activity like crafting together in a homeroom or venturing across the street (with adults, of course) to play in Carl Schurz Park. They will also exchange small gifts, such as personally made bookmarks or containers of bubbles.
Back in Room 21, the reading period ended all too quickly. “That was so beautiful. Thank you, Reading Buddies!” exclaimed Kindergarten Associate Teacher Gloria Rodriguez as the Class 2 students gathered their books, said goodbye to their buddies and got ready to return to their classroom. It was not surprising to learn that the students are already looking forward to the next time they all meet or see each other around Chapin. Lasting friendships appear to be forming!
Browse photos of the "Buddies" below: