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Eminence Reading Buddies

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

For 30 minutes each Friday, buddies at Eminence Elementary and Middle Schools get together and enjoy a good book.

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The Reading Buddies program began at Eminence Independent Schools eight years ago, the expression of an idea that started on an Arby’s napkin.

Language Arts teacher Jennifer Montgomery and librarian Penny Bland were working on their National Board Certification, thinking of projects they could collaborate on.

For seven or eight weeks, first grade students and eighth grade students meet in the school’s library.

The big buddies read a book to their little buddies, and then the two will do an activity based on that book.

Bland said the big buddies check out a book each Monday, ideally based on interests they share with their little buddies.

“Then they have to design an activity or lesson that goes with the book,” she said. “The activity has to enhance the lesson.”

Those lessons are turned in on Tuesdays and graded by Montgomery and Bland.

Montgomery said the students are taking the activities to the extreme.

She added that while the students learn to share a love of reading, the program has an extra benefit for the older students.

“It’s really great for the eighth graders who... aren’t seen as leaders, the ones who don’t always have the best behavior,” she said. “All of a sudden, there’s this little kid looking up to them, and they don’t want to disappoint them.

“We’ve had conversations with eighth graders who aren’t making great choices, but they’re really excited about this and want to do well at it. It’s a chance to be positive role models.”

This year also marks the first time in the program’s history that the big buddies once were the little buddies.

For Andrew Coomes, now a big buddy, the program was unforgettable.

“I was here in first grade, and it was really neat, because when we started this project, I could remember the things my buddy did with me,” he said.

Coomes’ buddy made things interesting for him, he said. When his turn came to be a big buddy, he remembered his own experience.

“I was super excited, I wanted my own buddy,” he said. “I just feel like this is a good way to show how we can work with the younger ones.”

Owen Cope, Coomes’ little buddy, said he likes the program, because they get to do fun stuff.

When school was cancelled recently, both big and little buddy were disappointed.

“I love Owen... last week, when we were out for snow and we didn’t get to have our Reading Buddies, it killed me. I missed him,” he said.