LJ pre-schoolers find book buddies valuable

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By Mallory Bilger

LEBANON JUNCTION — Every Thursday Lindy Meyer’s Lebanon Junction Elementary fourth graders open the door to a classroom full of preschoolers and their eyes light up.

The bond between the two classes is instantly recognizable.

With story books in hand, the fourth graders quickly break off into pairs and locate their “book buddy” — a special preschooler with whom they will share the next 20 minutes reading and bonding.

This is Meyer’s first year at Lebanon Junction Elementary School. She spent the last several years teaching fourth grade in Breckinridge County, where she created the Book Buddy program.

The program was so successful that she implemented it in her LJES classroom this year.

“The main focus is fluency,” Meyer said. “(My students) are trying to become more fluent readers. And they get excited when they’re doing something new.”

Meyer said her class spent several weeks preparing for the program which once a week pairs two fourth graders with one of 14 preschool students from Renee Thurman’s class.

Meyer’s students spent two months learning what to expect when working with preschoolers and how to keep their attention when reading to them before they started the Thursday sessions in October.

The students come prepared each week with an age-appropriate children’s book and read to their book buddy. In some cases, the preschoolers are even learning to read along with Meyer’s students.

Thurman said her preschoolers are benefiting greatly from the Book Buddy program.

“They really do look forward to it. It lets them see that other people can read. It’s helping them see that other kids can read, too. We read a book every day, but usually I’m the only one that they see read,” Thurman said.

Meyer said her fourth graders are learning more confidence as they get comfortable reading aloud. They also recognize that they have valuable information to teach the younger children.

Fourth grader Haley Hatfield said she has noticed improvement in her book buddy’s listening skills.

“They’re starting to get to where they’re listening to you, they’re looking at you and they’re paying attention,” Hatfield said.

Brittany Arnold, who is also in Meyer’s class, said her book buddy is learning his letters better since she’s been reading to him.

“Since I’ve been reading to my preschooler, he’s learned the first two letters of his first name,” Arnold said, excitedly.

Meyer said her children return to the classroom each Thursday and discuss what went well and what improvements needed to be made at the next reading session.

Her students have learned that using voice inflection and body motions help keep the preschooler’s attention and make the experience more fun for both parties.

Fourth grader Caity Brown said she has used those methods.

“It’s really hard to keep their attention so you have to change your voice for all the characters in the book,” she said.

Preschool assistant Michelle Cradle said the preschoolers have formed special bonds with Meyer’s students.

“As soon as they see them they go straight to them and hug them. They see them and immediately their eyes light up,” Cradle said.

Meyer said the Book Buddy program is just one more way that she strives to make learning fun for her students while benefiting another student population.

“I like to make it fun for my kids. They are so excited about this each week,” she said. “I’ve always found that there is so much more to this than just reading.”