Students were sprawled all over the classroom at JFK Elementary School. Some lay on their bellies on yoga mats while others kneeled comfortably nearby. Others sat back, relaxed in chairs with peers sitting cross-legged on the floor on the other side of their desks. Every single one of them was peering at a book.
This sweet scene unfolded in Michael Tomassi and Megan Gersch’s second-grade class when reading buddies from Karen Barke’s kindergarten class came for a visit.
“My friends picked out two books to share with you,” Gersch explained to the kindergarteners. “These are the partners we’re going to stay with so that you get to have some friends in the building who aren’t in your classroom. It will give you a second-grade buddy.”
The second graders chose stories to read that were on their reading level or a little bit lower to ensure their younger friends would enjoy them too. Once both books were read, the students were encouraged to talk about them or to ask each other questions to learn more about one another.
Judging by the happy faces, giggles and constant chatter, students thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Kindergarteners had the chance to meet the school’s “big kids” while second graders delighted in taking on a leadership role, choosing their books very carefully.
“I picked this book because it’s funny and I thought they would laugh,” said Jason Fernandez, a second grader. He was right. His buddies giggled wildly when they reached a page in A Funny Man when readers learn the main character sleeps in a bed on top of his house.
“This guy has a really funny place to sleep,” one of them commented.
The reading buddy experience not only encourages a love of reading and strengthens peer-to-peer relationships, but it also helps the district’s youngest students practice two of the Strategic Coherence Plan’s essential skills: communication and adaptability.