TROY — Hundreds of regular participants in the Concord Elementary “Reading Buddies” program made merry and celebrated the holidays during a special lunch event on Friday at Troy High School.
Participants included 125 high school students and over 100 first graders, who meet weekly at Concord to read books, practice flash cards, and go over various school work.
“I started the program 11 years ago, looking for a community service project for my son,” said Myra Sanders, first grade teacher at Concord Elementary. “He was in the National Honor Society and needed service hours. It began as just my class and 17 high school kids. Then, more high school kids and more teachers heard about it, and wanted to be a part of it.
High school students who wish to participate in the program are invited to sign up each spring for the following school year.
On Friday, Concord first graders traveled by bus to Troy High School, where they had lunch with their “Reading Buddy” during each high schooler’s regular lunch period. In the down time, first graders went to various stations to complete activities, including holiday bingo, reindeer crafts, Christmas coloring pages, and a screening of “Frosty the Snowman.”
Sanders expressed that the 2018-19 school year is a special one for the program, as first graders who participated in its inaugural year are now participating as THS upperclassmen.
“I was in Mrs. Sanders’ first grade class during the first year she did read ‘Reading Buddies’,” said THS junior Mackenzie Nosker. “It made us really happy, and I wanted to do that for another kid. I’ve really enjoyed coming to the parties and seeing the kids happy around Christmastime.”
“I remember the feeling the first graders get of seeing your buddy every week,” said THS junior Brooke Stockslager. “You think, ‘This big, cool high schooler thinks I’m awesome and we get to read together.’ Now I’m getting the flipside of it, and it’s really cool.”
According to Sanders, the program has continued to enforce positive learning lessons for both participating age groups.
“It’s a great mentorship,” Sanders said. “The first graders obviously see a positive role model in that teen. They get to see that reading is exciting to them, and they want to look up to and emulate the high school kids. They get the sense that reading is still important even as an older student.
“As for the high school kids, I think they come into this thinking they’ll be the ones who will benefit the children, but I think they’re benefitted, too. They’re learning the value of volunteerism and responsibility. They have to come each week, because none of them want to disappoint a 6-year-old. I think it’s a great life lesson for them to undertake something and see it through, and I think it’s actually inspired some kids to go into education.”
The Reading Buddies program runs the length of the school year. First graders and high schoolers will come together again for a second lunch in May.
“Our PTOs have supported this by supplying books and things, and the schools have helped tremendously with grants in the past,” Sanders said. “We have lots of generosity from the community at large, and the kids look very forward to seeing their buddy each week.”
For more information, visit www.troy.k12.oh.us.