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Buddy system aids readers at Southmoreland Primary Center

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Paul Paterra | Independent-Observer
Kindergarten student Hayden Adams (left) reads to first-grade student Adam Flack as part of Southmoreland Primary Center's Reading Buddies program.
Paul Paterra | Independent-Observer
First-grade student Ella Gill (right) attentively listens as kindergarten student Chase Hernley reads.

On recent Fridays, students at the Southmoreland Primary Center could be seen reading to each other.

It's part of a “Reading Buddies” program, which involves the first grade and kindergarten students the school houses.

“One of the first-graders takes a kindergarten person, a partner, and they read to them,” said Diane Stoker, a first-grade teacher. “Now kindergarten is starting to read, so kindergarten will read them a story and they'll read kindergarten a story. And they bring a little snack. They have to pick a different partner every time.”

Snacks, such as crackers, could be seen with the students and they seemed to be enjoying each other's company. The attention of the student listening rarely seemed to stray from their counterpart who was doing the reading.

The program, in effect, becomes a reading lesson provided by the older students to their younger colleagues.

“That's the goal to listen to first-grade read, so we can know when our voices go up, when they go down, kind of like the dynamics of reading, when to stop for a period,” said Brenda Mayers, kindergarten teacher. “We just decided 10-15 minutes every Friday to do that...The first week we did it, my kids brought the snack, her children brought the stories and read them. The second week, her children provided the snack, my children read the stories. (Last) week, they brought their own snack.”

On May 10, the students took the act outside. It was a bit overcast, but the rain held off long enough for the students to read to each other.

The outdoor “classroom” provided a bit more space for the students than either of the teachers' rooms.

“(It was) probably more comfortable for them that they're not on top of each other,” Mayers said on a day that the kindergarten students were the primary readers. “If kindergarten is struggling, (first-grade students) may help. We want kindergarten (students) to read the majority of the book.”

Reading buddies has not only turned out to be a reading lesson, but a good social experiment as well. It also provided the first-grade students a feeling of being the older sibling, someone to whom their younger friends could look and from whom they could learn.

“My kindergartners (typically) are with kindergarten and first grade is with first grade, so we're interacting grade-wise,” Mayers said.

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or