[gallery]By Jeanie Scott
Over 10 years ago, The Gillispie School established an interactive reading program titled “Book Buddies” to help students foster a love of reading and develop peer connections, especially between the early childhood program and elementary school.
Several times a month, students in Grades 2-6 become the mentors and role models to their peers in prekindergarten and first grade. Older students are paired one-on-one with younger children. The book buddies visit each others’ classrooms or gather under trees on the school grounds for a 30-minute reading session several times throughout the month.
For years now, veteran Gillispie teacher Connie Engelhardt’s Grade 1 class has been paired with Grade 6. For the first few months of each school year the sixth graders read to the younger students. However, that changes once the Grade 1 students become confident readers mid-way through the year. The older students then become attentive listeners. In addition to reading together, the older students are sometimes called upon to help their younger peers with lessons in math, writing, Spanish, and social studies.
Engelhardt said, “This program helps the children establish a sense of belonging at Gillispie. It brings the school community closer together when younger children have the ability to interact with the older students, who they often see on the playground or at school assemblies. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to see students come full circle at Gillispie. My former first grade students return to the classroom as confident sixth-grade leaders and mentors.”
Sixth-grade teacher Jen Chaney added, “This program gives the sixth graders a chance to teach and be in an advisory role. They get to help, be counted on, and looked up to – it’s the students’ chance to take on the role of teachers.”
The success of the Book Buddies program is evident on the Gillispie campus and throughout the community as students can be seen racing towards an older child they proudly introduce as their Book Buddy.