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book buddies “I wish I could do ‘Book Buddies’ all day!” said Maya Sykes-Gundlach, a student in Mrs. Tracie Heinrichs and Mrs. Stephanie Henry’s first-grade classroom.

On Fridays, for over 15 years, first-grade teacher Mrs. Heinrichs and third-grade teacher Mrs. Tracy Peter-Hoen have brought their classes together for “Book Buddies.” This is half an hour for students to experience the fun and importance of reading with, and to, someone.

“I can tell my buddy is getting better and better at reading each week,” said third grader Markell Popov, as he listened to his first-grade reading buddy, Greyson Sorbello.

Older and younger students are paired together based on their reading strengths and interests. At the beginning of each year the third graders interview their first-grade “book buddies.” They ask about hobbies, curiosities, and favorite things. The third graders then set off to find books on the topics they discussed and ones that would spark their buddies’ interest.

“It’s a time to practice fluency and comprehension,” explains Mrs. Peter-Hoen.

There are many benefits to be found with this program for both grade levels—one of which is becoming comfortable presenting in front of large groups. The third graders give their final presentation projects in front of their own class and their book buddies’ class.

It is also a natural way for first graders to get to know role models in the upper grades.

“The fun part to watch is when the first-grader’s role flips by the end of the year, and they are reading out loud to their third-grade buddy,” said Mrs. Heinrichs.

To conclude the program each year Mrs. Heinrichs and Mrs. Peter-Hoen have a “reading celebration” picnic. The picnic during the last “Book Buddies” allows students to reflect on the time they have spent together, on the books they have read, and on the new friendships they have formed.