Reading is a fundamental part of learning, yet not all students are proficient readers. According to standardized achievement measures in the state of Arizona, about thirty percent of eighth grade students did not meet or exceed the reading standards. Given this, teachers need to find ways to encourage students to read and teach strategies students can use to gain proficiency. Reading buddies may be one practice teachers can use.
The purpose of this action research was to determine if and how cross-age structured reading buddies affected seventh grade students' notion of reading, attitudes towards reading, use of reading strategies, and reading comprehension. Reading buddies, in this study, were defined as cross-age students reading together to strengthen their abilities and attitude toward reading.
Twice a week for thirteen weeks, a fourth and seventh grade pair met and read the fourth grade social studies textbook, a leveled reader, and a novel based on the informational text read. To provide structure, seventh grade students used a teacher-created program of study and a student-created lesson plan designed to facilitate the transfer of three explicitly taught reading strategies (previewing, questioning and rereading).
Mixed methods were used to gather data from the nineteen seventh grade reading buddies. Quantitative measures were a pre/post survey and benchmark reading comprehension scores. In addition, a purposeful sample of six students were interviewed and observed.
District benchmark scores showed a slight growth in reading comprehension. Additional sources delved deeper into students' beliefs. Sources reveal that after experiencing reading buddies, students' views of reading remained varied. Some students entered reading buddies with a negative view and continued to feel that way. Others expressed favorable ideas especially in terms of the social aspect of reading buddies and the responsibilities involved. Of particular interest was how high, middle, and low performing students used the strategies taught. Despite their reading level, all students used the strategies. However, students in the lowest group used lower level rereading least. Taken together results imply structured reading buddies may provide a viable strategy but will not work for every child.