Reading buddies in Stafford

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Popular verses from classic children's books could be heard down the hallways as kindergartners and eighth-graders sat in pairs reading to each other. The fun activity is part of a new effort led by Kathryn Crawford, eighth-grade teacher, and Caitlin Boland, kindergarten teacher, to start a buddy program at St. William of York School in Stafford. Crawford was inspired to start the program after recalling the fond memories of reading with older students when she was in grade school.

"We thought it would be a neat opportunity for the eighth-graders to develop a relationship with the kids," said Crawford. "On Mondays they go to Mass together, so they are church buddies."

The teachers work with the students to make buddy reading time both fun and educational.

"The eighth-graders are working on their public speaking so it is helpful to them to read out loud to the kids," says Crawford. "The kindergartners are working on identifying the beginning, middle and end of their stories and who the characters are."

Eighth-grader Shane Alexander looks forward to reading to his buddy and thinks that it helps his buddy be more confident in his own reading.

Sometimes the eighth-graders help the kindergartners with a fun activity or craft before starting their reading session. Crawford likes seeing the kindergartners bring out the inner child in their older buddies and how much the eighth-graders enjoy the time with their partners.

"They (the eighth graders) spend a lot of time picking out their books and some of them come in on Mondays and they are like 'look what I found at the library,'" said Crawford. "If we ever have to cancel, they are pretty bummed." She also enjoys seeing the relationships between the kids develop even outside the designated buddy time.

"The eighth-graders' confirmation was last week, and the kindergartners drew pictures of them together, while a couple of the little kids attended their buddy's confirmation."

Eighth-graders Lidia Gillson and Rita Bishai both look forward to their time with their little reading partners.

"I love seeing my buddy," said Gillson. "She likes to point out the things inside the book and ask what that word is and how it is spelled." The girls also understand that the time they spend together with their younger students is more than about reading Green Eggs and Ham.

"Our buddies look up to us," said Bishai. "They think we are cool, so we have to set a good example."

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016