Cottonwood Creek reading buddies build relationships and literacy skills

SUBMITTED BY ANNA C. DOLAN
CHERRY CREEK SCHOOLS

Elio Karam couldn’t wait to become a fifth-grader, so he could be a reading buddy with a first-grader.

“I like it because I get to read with somebody,” Karam said. In fact, he’s reading with his first-grade neighbor, Giana Reed. She offered her own emphatic description of the reading buddy program at Cottonwood Creek Elementary: “FUN! It’s fun because he gets to read to me,” she said. She also approves of the books Karam picks out for her each week. “Some ‘Fancy Nancy’ and a lot of ‘Pinkalicious,’” Reed said.

While Karam prefers books like the “Magnum Chase” adventure series, which is based in Norse mythology, he’s happy to read the books his buddy prefers during their time together every Wednesday afternoon. He’s also proud of what they accomplish together.

“She might not know a word and then I help her figure it out,” Karam explained. “I’m showing her all these new words.”

Increasing literacy skills among both first- and fifth-graders is one of the benefits of Cottonwood Creek’s reading buddy program.

“Any time our first-graders can have someone read to them – and sometimes they read too – it just helps with their fluency and their vocabulary,” first-grade teacher Hannah Frick said, as she watched pairs and trios of reading buddies sitting on Cottonwood’s front lawn, engaged with each other, and engrossed in their books.

“Both our first graders and our fifth graders look forward to this every Wednesday. It’s the highlight of the week,” said fifth-grade teacher Rebecca Buell. She added that the program aligns with several of the Cherry Creek School District’s Core Values, especially Relationships.

“We wanted something that would build a fun community at Cottonwood, something that would empower the fifth-graders to feel like leaders, and something for the first-graders to enjoy now, but also look forward to down the road,” Buell added.

That’s already happening, according to first-grader Eigen Acharya.

“When I become a fifth-grader, I would really like to become a reading buddy because it’s fun and I like seeing kids my age and remembering what it was like to have a buddy,” he said after he and his buddy, Pierce Koehler finished “Curious George.”

While Koehler prefers books like “The Losers Club” and “No Talking” by author Andrew Clements, he’s doing everything he can to be a good buddy and role model for Acharya.

“I want him to like reading buddies and be a great reading buddy to his future reading buddy,” Koehler said.