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6th and 2nd Graders Boost Reading Fluency with Book Buddies

Henderson-Hopkins program develops literacy across grade levels

Every week, when Kyair Butts’ 6th grade “bigs'' visit Brittney Drayton’s classroom to read to her 2nd grade “littles,” the students of Henderson-Hopkins Elementary’s Book Buddies program are working together to build crucial literacy skills across grade levels. 

“The social emotional learning aspect of having someone you look up to read aloud to you is a potent motivator for someone learning to read,” says Mr. Butts (who goes by “Mr. K”). “The latest research on how students build literacy skills suggests that students should not be reading silently until they’re truly fluent.” 

For the 6th graders, reading aloud builds that fluency, the bridge to reading comprehension. Now that they easily recognize and identify words, their focus moves towards understanding plot structure, character perspectives, and being able to draw conclusions from the text. For 6th graders who may struggle with comprehension, reading out loud increases their focus and ties together their ability to see, pronounce, and understand words. Every opportunity to read, convey the emotion in the text, and help their 2nd grade littles grasp the stories reinforces these skills. 

And for 2nd grade littles, mastering foundational skills and academic vocabulary is crucial for the more demanding and rewarding literacy tasks that are the focus of middle school, high school, and beyond. Reading along with their “bigs” builds their skills in letter sounds, blending, and building up their library of “sight words” — words that they instantly remember the pronunciation and meaning of.

“I’m definitely seeing improvements and results thanks to Book Buddies,” says Ms. Drayton. “My 2nd graders are modeling what they see their “bigs” do — proper greetings, saying thank you, following the words on the page with their fingers. At first, my students were nervous. 6th graders are intimidating when you’re that young, but by now they’re practically jumping up and down when it’s time to visit with their ‘bigs.’” 

“Building a Generation: City Schools’ Blueprint for Success” identified literacy as one of the district’s priorities. The ability of students to comprehend and analyze texts of all kinds and express themselves in multiple genres is critical to academic, career, and life success.  With Book Buddies, students across grade levels are reinforcing with each other the exact skills they need at exactly the right time. 

“There is a lot of data about the work we need to do as educators to support Black boys in literacy,” says Mr. K. “The highest form of learning is transference — teaching to someone else. “There’s something powerful about Black boys reading to each other. I get goosebumps.” 


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