Students typically interact with their same-aged peers at school, but now Ensley Elementary School is providing opportunities to connect its older students with the younger ones.
The school’s Buddy Reading kicked off this week, linking fifth graders and pre-kindergartners to help both groups improve reading and gain fluency.
“They really enjoyed just having the chance to sit and read a book to preschoolers,"Mary Springer-Alonzo, the school’s media specialist, said about the reading program. “It was a big success.”
SCI plans to incorporate Buddy Reading with Sibling Brain Builders, an early education initiative that encourages sibling bonding and family through reading, sharing and learning.
In selected elementary schools, media specialists and teachers use Sibling Brain Builders to encourage students in third to fifth grades to read at home with their younger siblings.
After more than a year hiatus because of the impact of COVID-19, Sibling Brain Builders in recent weeks returned in Escambia County when the district reinstituted policies that allow visitors back on campus.
As a result, Lincoln Park, O.J. Semmes and Weis elementary schools all have agreed to re-start the Brain Builders programs in partnership with SCI’s Early Brain Development Division.
Montclair Elementary School’s new principal has expressed interest in re-starting the program after the holidays in the second half of the school year. And now Ensley is joining the program.
Teachers and Innovation Center Directors (librarians/media specialists) keep track of students reading minutes with younger siblings and/or classmates. They submit the logs to SCI to receive books and candy as incentives.
The older siblings/students get credit at school for the work they do at home plus incentives to maintain it. The younger children will get more time reading and engaging with a role model student.
While the Sibling Brain Builders is an innovative program to foster engagement, its main goal is to help prepare children for kindergarten.
The benefits are profound. Buddy Reading and Sibling Brain Builders allows younger readers to see what being fluent looks like as they have a peer model demonstrating reading skills. They also can acquire a positive role model with pairing with older students.
Since students are reading to another, it naturally motivates them to practice fluency, a win-win for everyone involved.