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Reading Buddies is a popular program that many schools implement with tremendous success. What exactly is this program and why should teachers use it with their students? Find out buddy reading benefits for big and little readers in this 2 Part Series on Reading Buddies! 

(You may also be interested in tips for implementing a reading buddies program.)

What is Buddy Reading?

You may be wondering what are reading buddies and how does buddy reading work? The reading buddies program pairs up an older student with a younger student for them to take turns reading to one another. It allows for authentic reading practice and a model of fluent reading among many other benefits! Students may also engage in buddy reading with same-aged peers, but in this post the phrase “reading buddies” refers to students of different ages.

Why is Buddy Reading Important?

Implementing a buddy reading program can greatly benefit both the older and younger reading buddies in different ways. Let’s further break down these benefits of buddy reading!

Benefits of Buddy Reading for the younger reading buddies.

Little Buddy Benefits of Reading Buddies

Younger buddies can gain a lot from the program but it may require some training with older students to be extremely successful. (Be sure to read part 2 of the series for reading buddies tips). Younger buddies benefit from buddy reading because they can:

Listen to a Fluent Model

Younger students grow as readers when they hear more experienced readers model fluent reading. The older students can demonstrate how fluent readers read with appropriate phrasing and intonation. Emergent readers also benefit from hearing their buddies read with accuracy and automaticity rather than needing to constantly sound out difficult words.

Observe a Peer Model

The benefits of buddy reading go beyond academics. Younger students can observe their buddy demonstrating positive behavior and valuable social skills. They see their buddy following the rules and remaining focused on the task. They also benefit from their buddy displaying positive character traits such as kindness and patience with them.

Receive One-on-One Support

Big reading buddies can use tools such as they decoding bookmarks to support their little reading buddies.

During buddy reading the younger students essentially have a personal tutor helping them with their reading. Older students provide immediate feedback and offer strategies to help emergent readers decode unknown words. It also builds awareness and increases self-monitoring of comprehension as the older buddy can support the student when the reading no longer makes sense.

Benefits of Buddy Reading for the older reading buddies.

Big Buddy Benefits of Reading Buddies

Even though older buddies provide many supports to the younger students, they also gain a lot from the experience. Older buddies benefit from buddy reading because they can:

Build Confidence

Struggling readers and shy students in the upper grades may not feel comfortable reading aloud with their same-aged peers. Reading to a younger student provides them with a chance to feel confident as a reader in a less intimidating environment. It naturally builds confidence when they know someone is looking up to them both academically and socially. The little buddies view their reading buddies as their role models and are in awe of them!

Act as a Mentor

In the same way reading buddies benefit older students who struggle with reading, it also helps students who have difficulty with self-control. They are forced to model positive character traits and set the example for responsible behavior during the designated time. The program naturally rewards them for good behavior by having someone look up to them rather than focusing on any negative behavior.

Practice Leadership Skills

Reading buddies provide older students with an opportunity to practice lifelong skills in authentic ways. They learn leadership, patience, and problem-solving strategies while working with their younger buddies.

Big buddies can reflect on their weekly buddy reading experiences and problem solve way to better support their little buddies.
Benefits of Buddy Reading for both reading buddies.

Benefits of Buddy Reading for Both Buddies

Even though the students have different roles in the partnership, both buddies gain value from the experience. Big and little buddies benefit from buddy reading because they can:

Practice Authentic Reading

The best way to get better at something is to practice, practice, practice. The same holds true for reading. All students benefit from the opportunity to practice reading to a live audience in an authentic manner.

Practice Reading Fluently

Since students are reading to another person, it naturally motivates them to practice reading fluently. It is the perfect opportunity to practice phrased and expressive reading.

Engage in Meaningful Discussions about the Text

All students need time to discuss the texts they read to deepen comprehension. Talking about texts can also build excitement about reading.

Build a Sense of Community

Typically students only interact with their same-aged peers, but reading buddies provide opportunities to make the school feel more connected. Reading buddies are always excited when they pass by in the hallways or see each other at school-wide events. Teachers can plan fun events for buddies such as popsicle parties, holiday crafts, or stem challenges. Every year our younger buddies write their older buddies notes of encouragement during standardized testing. All of these moments help establish a strong sense of community within our school.

Reading Buddies Bookmarks
Reading Buddies Activities

You can start a buddy reading program with your students using the above resources. You’ll find bookmarks, reading response sheets, and other activities your reading buddies can complete throughout the school year!

Now that you know the many benefits of reading buddies and are hopefully feeling motivated to start implementing them, you may have a lot of questions about HOW to begin. Be sure to check out Part 2 for Reading Buddies tips for implementing this program with your students!

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Read on to find out the 10 biggest benefits of buddy reading. Be sure to check out the suggested activities and ideas to help you implement a successful Reading Buddies Program with your students!

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