Last year, in considering how best to support elementary school participants’ self-perception as readers and scholars, Girls Inc. staff decided to try engaging a class of 4th and 5th graders as reading role models for their younger peers. Soon, each student in the younger class was paired with a more experienced “buddy,” and the activity—dubbed “Reading Buddies”—started taking place each week.
Initially, the plan for the activity involved older participants demonstrating their reading skills to their younger buddies, who would depict what was read using artwork. After a few meetings, however, the younger students had other ideas: they wanted to show off their reading skills to their buddies, too. So the program shifted, with older and younger students alternating reading to each other.
Throughout the week, students from both classes bubbled with excitement about reading with their buddies, and frequently asked staff when Reading Buddies would be taking place. From a creative idea crafted by a few staff, the activity was a success not only in building academic engagement, but in building community.
Girls Inc. staff are constantly working to hone programs so they meet the academic and interpersonal needs of our participants. This not only includes new activities like Reading Buddies, but also more formal curriculum developments. For example, this summer, our Elementary Program Department developed an entire year’s worth of elementary curricula that supports reading fluency and vocabulary development; celebrates rich and diverse cultural heritage; and aligns directly with Common Core state standards. Armed with both innovative ideas and evidence-based resources, Girls Inc. is ready for another year of learning, fun and inspiration.