Last week, two of the classes trekked it in the snow to read to our neighborhood preschool, Families Together. We try to do this about four times a year. I began reflecting on why we do this to help explain to our students and concluded this reflection after our experience. Here are some thoughts I came up with:
What first came to mind was how this is one of the Chicago Friends School traditions. We started this reading relationship with Families Together right off the bat! This was before my time, but I am sure some of the oldest students remember doing this during their first year at Chicago Friends School. It is also a tradition at Families Together, and they only have their oldest kids participate. I know being able to have the “big kids” read to them is something they look forward to when they reach that age.
Service is one of the Quaker testimonies that we practice through different experiences at Chicago Friends School. When Chicago Friends School students read to their buddy, they are not only reading a book, but thinking about their reader, asking questions, pausing to discuss pictures, holding the book so their friend can see it etc. This is an ongoing, rewarding service that we provide.
Maintain a Relationship
Many of our new kindergarten students come from Families Together so we like to maintain a close relationship with the school, teachers, students and parents. Reading to the students is one way that we achieve this. We also create recognizable faces in both of the school communities.
Benefit the ‘Little Buddies’
Hearing stories read-aloud (modeling of reading fluency, phrasing and expression), having conversations with an older student about topics that interest and involve them and enjoying fun, positive experiences with ‘big kids’ all benefits the ‘little buddies’.
Benefit the ‘Big Buddies’
Reading aloud to a friend helps further develop the students own literacy skills, it fosters a leadership role, and it can improve self-confidence that comes from being looked-up to. Watching the older students take such care reading to their buddies (the way they held the book, made sure the kids understood the story) is a different experience than reading to a peer. The older kids had to take extra care to think about what their buddy understood and be sensitive to that. I saw every Chicago Friends School student take the time to guide their buddy to a cozy place to read and check in with them.
How can I ignore the fact that it is adorable to see how sweet the older kids are to the younger ones. One of the teachers from Families Together was about in tears watching one of her previous Families Together students (now at our school) take on the reading role with such confidence!