Students in six schools across the Elk Valley paired up on January 30 for the Great Big Buddy Read, an event that saw older students sit down and read to their younger peers.
The event was created by the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy (CBAL) as part of Family Literacy Week in B.C. and aims to encourage a love of reading in young children.
“We wanted to represent that learning to read and write doesn’t happen alone so there’s the Big Buddy Read where older kids are going to be paired up with younger kids in schools across the East Kootenay and they are going to read together for about half an hour,” explained Chrisy Hill, community literacy coordinator for CBAL Elk Valley. “We’re really excited about it because it’s the first time we’ve done it regionally. It’s been done in some of the communities before but this is our first Great Big Buddy Read.”
The Fernie Academy, Ecole Sophie Morigeau, Ecole Isabella Dicken Elementary School, Jaffray Elementary, Rocky Mountain Elementary School and Frank J Mitchell Elementary School all participated in the event. The Fernie Heritage Library also held a session for homeschooled children so that everyone could participate in the reading day.
“Those younger kids really look up to the older kids and to see what they are going to be able to do when they get to that age is really special for them,” Hill said. “It means a lot more than reading with another teacher or parent…it’s really something special to read with a peer.”
At Isabella Dicken grade six students sat down with grade one students in the morning to start the day off with a good book. As it just so happens, it was also pajama day at the elementary school. Students cuddled up all over classrooms and hallways with blankets, pajamas, stuffed animals, books and a friend to practice their reading. Both the older and the younger students seem to enjoy the experience, with many of them absolutely riveted by the storytelling activity.
Hill said that all of the CBAL coordinators in the East Kootenay were very excited about the event, and even were getting a little competitive to see who could get the most schools on board. After the event, the CBAL coordinators gauged the participation of the different schools in the region and handed out a grand prize to the school with the highest participation.
Although the reading event was undoubtedly a success, the Great Big Buddy Read is just one way to encourage literacy in children, according to Hill.
“A lot of parents don’t realize that what they are doing at home is already helping their kids,” she explained. “That’s one of the things that we want to make sure people understand is that when you are preparing your kids for school, it’s not a matter of teaching them their alphabet or their numbers or their colours or that sort of thing. It’s just the every day things that they do together…Parents don’t realize how much they are already doing. They don’t have to make it a classroom activity to teach their kids things that they need to know. They’re already doing a great job.”
By making literacy a community effort, Hill hopes that people realize “family literacy is about literacy happening not in a vacuum but with other members of the community.”
In the future, Hill hopes to see the Great Big Buddy Read grow to provincial or even national recognition.
“We’re really excited to see what happens with it,” she said. “I really want it to become a bigger event. This is the first year and we’ll see how it goes and if it’s really good then we’ll move it to the entire Kootenay region and then if it’s really good … it would be amazing to make it province-wide, or even Canada-wide to have all the kids reading with a buddy on the same day. How cool would that be?”