Emma Fialka-Feldman and Julia Goodman teach second grade at Dudley Street Neighborhood School, an in-district charter. This past spring, they recruited and organized a group of adults to be online reading buddies for their students – starting after spring break and continuing through the end of the school year.
Independent reading is part of Emma and Julia’s usual language block, giving them time to read with those who need the most support, but this was a challenge with online instruction. They reached out to a wide network of family, friends, colleagues, and retired educators – the Roslindale public library even helped with recruiting volunteers! The teachers created a google form for scheduling buddy time and taught them how to share a zoom screen.
Adult buddies joined the class on Zoom at around 10 am and listened to the last part of the lesson, then met with a student in a breakout room for 20 minutes while the student read aloud – usually from an eBook available on ERIC. Afterwards, everyone returned to the whole class meeting to share a bit about what they’d read with their buddies.
Retired BPS teacher Fran Perkins was one of these adult reading buddies, who usually met with the same student twice/week; others met with their assigned student 3-5 days of the week. Most of them even attended a virtual publication party at the end of the year! Some of the buddies are continuing as pen pals over the summer, some are continuing to read together via Zoom or FaceTime, and some sent packages with books and writing paper/pens/stickers to their reading buddies.
According to their teachers, the second graders “took ownership” of the program, were fully engaged, and looked forward to reading time with their buddies. There was a lot of home/school communication and many families “grew to love our buddy reading program — and virtually met many of the buddy readers, too!”
“I learned a lot of different words from reading with my buddy, John. I like chapter books. Online school was OK, but sometimes I couldn’t get on.” ~ Kayleigh, Grade 2
“I liked reading to my buddy Dorie. We read a lot fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood. I also learned that turtles live in the water.” ~ Elvis, Grade 2
“I read with my reading buddy once a week and it was fun. We read books about cars and I learned about different types of engines. I especially like nonfiction and realistic fiction. Having school online also helped me learn a lot about computers and creating safe passwords.” ~ Jon-Michael (Junior), Grade 2