Building relationships with reading and running

Cottonwood Creek fifth-grade students cheer on their first-grade buddies during the school’s Run4Funds on Sept. 10. Courtesy photo.

SUBMITTED BY ANNA DOLAN
CHERRY CREEK SCHOOLS

“Go Stella!” yelled Sophia Pratt.

“Come on, Heitor!” screamed Paige Adler, as dozens of other fifth-grade students cheered for the first graders running around the Cottonwood Creek athletic field on Sept. 10. The atmosphere was jubilant. Enthusiasm was high, and so were the temperatures, so parents and younger siblings kept the runners cool with squirts of water on every lap.

The older students had already taken their turn in the school’s annual “Run4Funds,” an event that helps Cottonwood Creek celebrate community and physical activity while supporting the school’s PTO in efforts to raise funds to pay for paraprofessionals, schoolwide enrichment programs and other education-related expenses.

But this year’s run had a new twist: the fifth graders got to cheer on their first-grade buddies, younger students they usually spend time reading with.

“As a fifth-grade buddy, I meet with Stella on Wednesdays and we read together and we just hang out,” Pratt explained. “We’re partners… We’re like a team!”

“She helps me learn the sounds and letters,” said Pratt’s buddy, first grader Stella Dempster.

“We read a lot,” said Adler, who is Heitor’s buddy. “Pete the Cat, Miss Nelson is Missing… easy books that have some challenging words so we can work on vocabulary.”

The reading buddy program has long helped Cottonwood Creek’s first graders develop their literacy skills and make friends with the school’s oldest students. It also gives the fifth graders opportunities to develop their leadership skills.

“I’m a role model so she knows how to be a reading buddy when she’s in fifth grade,” said Gianna Lantz about her buddy Kate. “And I show her how to read because that’s a really big part of being a reading buddy.”

Principal Katie Johnson said the program also helps instill the school’s values in younger students.

“At Cottonwood Creek, we value perseverance, patience and relation-ships built around empathy and kind-ness,” Johnson said. “The relationships we have among our students, staff and community are important. One of the many ways we create opportunities for students to engage and connect is through our first- and fifth-grade buddy program.”

The first graders all agreed that was fun to have their own personal cheering section during the fun run. They said having their buddies’ encouragement helped them run faster and farther than they thought they could on a hot, late summer afternoon.