Reading buddies can have a positive influence on young readers. Sometimes a reading buddy can help a struggling reader stay interested, and sometimes having a buddy can help make reading fun instead of seeming like a chore. Since reading skills will affect every aspect of your child's learning, anything that has a positive impact is worth exploring. The other positive side is that when an older child or teen is a reading buddy, the buddy benefits as well.
Reading Buddy Programs
Reading programs for early readers are usually organized by schools to help first- and second-grade students develop better reading skills, and to help struggling readers who have fallen behind grade level. Teachers, parents and administrators report an increase in motivation, confidence and self-esteem when reading buddies are used instead of a traditional breakout group of struggling readers. Most teachers have less than five minutes each day to read individually with students, so reading buddies also relieve the teacher of time and pressure, giving her the flexibility to continue lessons while still meeting the needs of readers in need of extra attention.
Increase in Vocabulary and Comprehension
Because reading comprehension and vocabulary development will affect a student throughout her academic career, any gain would be considered valuable. According to a study published in 1995, individual intervention paired with a reading buddy program accelerates a student's vocabulary level for significant changes in reading comprehension. Because a child's first-grade vocabulary level is an indicator of 11th grade reading performance, early intervention for struggling readers is critical.
Older Buddy Benefits
When an older child or teen acts as a reading buddy, he reaps benefits as well. Having a younger child look up to him as an example can help the older child develop a desire to be a good role model. Whether this results in better reading habits, better grades or better behavior, it's a winning situation all around. In addition, taking a step away from books on his own level and spending time with easier reading can motivate the older child to read more on his own.
Assign first- and second-grade readers to an older buddy who is on a sixth-grade reading level or above. Most successful buddy programs pair readers of the same gender. Consider putting kids with similar interests or hobbies together. Another idea: Have a group "getting to know you" session, after which younger buddies can submit two or three names of students they would like as buddies. You might also pair a struggling reader with an older buddy who also struggles. This way, the older buddy can benefit from a boost in confidence and self-esteem, and the younger buddy still benefits from the instruction.