Literary critic and writer Elizabeth Hardwick once said, “The greatest gift is a passion for reading,” and at Colorado Academy, Upper Schoolers give that gift to our youngest students through the Reading Mentors Club.
Each member of the Upper School’s Mentor Club visits his or her Kindergarten, First, or Second Grade reading buddy once per six-day rotation. The high schoolers take time out of their busy schedules to work with young students on a variety of reading activities, from phonics games and writing practice, to partner reading. The program began last year, and the impact on the young students’ literacy development has been impressive.
The additional one-on-one attention for the Kindergarten, First, and Second Graders builds not only their literacy skills, but also their reading confidence. As a First Grade teacher, it has been a treat to see high school students leap at the chance to educate our youngest readers, and when high schoolers enter the room to pick up their reading buddies, our youngsters’ faces light up. These Upper School students’ dedication demonstrates for our earliest learners the value of reading skills and hard work.
This groundbreaking club would not be possible without the support of Ruthie Angevine, the student club leader. In the spring of 2016, Ruthie and I met to increase interactions between Pre-K – 12th grade students, as well as to provide one-on-one tutoring for our youngest readers.
Ruthie’s passion for working with young students and her desire to build relationships with our Lower Schoolers was instrumental in our decision to develop the club. In addition to designing the program, Ruthie took on a leadership role in recruiting motivated high schoolers to make the club a success. Thanks to her hard work, our club has grown from 24 members in our first year to more than 60 members in year two. She has been a vital part of connecting the primary and secondary worlds, including coordinating school schedules and establishing shared goals.
While the club focuses on academic growth, personal growth that comes from the time that the students spend with one another is just as valuable. I have heard from Lower and Upper School students alike that this half hour every few days is not simply a learning and teaching opportunity, but a chance to bond with students on opposite ends of their CA journeys.
This bond occurs both in and out of the classroom. Our Lower Schoolers are elated when they see their Upper School Reading Mentors on their way to lunch or at an after-school sports event. These connections make our large community feel smaller and more personal.
Moreover, the older students say they have become reacquainted with the infectious intellectual curiosity of their younger peers. And our K-2 students get the rare chance to learn a thing or two from the wisdom of our young adults. Believe me, these mentors-in-the-making know more than they let on.