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Buddy Reading with Your Child

Mother buddy reading with her child

Have you tried buddy reading?

Buddy reading is a great way to help your child gain fluency. In buddy reading, you and your child take turns reading by sentence, paragraph, or page. Also called paired reading or partner reading, buddy reading has multiple benefits, but perhaps the biggest benefit is that it prevents discouragement.

Learning to read is hard work, and for some kids disheartening!

Imagine you’re a child with significant reading challenges. You’re faced with pages of text—and you know that you’ll have to sound out many of the words. You want to be able to read the story, but it is so hard. With buddy reading, you read alongside your child. She reads for a while, and then you read for a while. She no longer feels that she has to do it all on her own. With this method, she feels your support, and she learns from your fluent reading.

Because buddy reading has so many benefits, our customer support team often recommends this technique when coaching customers with young or struggling learners. I invited Robin from our team to share some real-life examples with us.

Here’s Robin:

My youngest child, Belle, struggled to gain fluency in her reading. She had to sound out every word of a story, and it would take her a long time to read even one page. She would get tired, then frustrated, and then discouraged. Often, she would be in tears by the time she finished a story. I tried having her read the story over a couple days, but then she would be in tears that she couldn’t finish it in one day.

So, I began buddy reading with Belle. We would read a short story over a period of three days.

Buddy Reading: Day 1

Belle reads the odd-numbered pages, and I read the even-numbered pages. Together we read through the story, alternating pages, until we reach the end of the story.

Here’s a short video clip showing Day 1 in progress.

Buddy Reading: Day 2

On Day 2, we re-read the story, but I read the odd-numbered pages, and Belle reads the even-numbered pages. In this manner, we read the whole story through again, each reading the pages the other read the day before.

Buddy Reading: Day 3

On Day 3, my daughter is finally able to read the story by herself in one sitting—without tears. After two days of reading and hearing it read, Belle is familiar with the story and words. She still has to sound out many words, but not as many as on the first day. She is able to succeed.

Mother and daughter reading together

Over time, Belle has needed less buddy reading. Now it’s enough to help her with just a paragraph, or a just a few sentences, instead of an entire page. As the AAR stories have gotten longer, Belle has started to get tired toward the end of the story. She doesn’t want me to read a full page anymore, so instead I supply words when she struggles to sound them out. I don’t do this throughout the whole story, and we never move on to the next lesson until she can read the whole story by herself. I just step in as needed to help her to complete the story the first time through without tears.

Other Uses for Buddy Reading

Buddy reading is also helpful when a child wants to read a book that includes words with concepts and phonograms that haven’t been taught yet. For example, my boys love the DK Beginner Reader books on topics like Lego®, Star Wars, snakes, and other exciting things. These books always contained words that my sons weren’t equipped to read yet. I found this especially common with names. Supplying a young reader with words like taipan (a kind of poisonous snake) or Tatooine (a planet in Star Wars) can be all that is needed to help them read these books.

Young reader looking at non-fiction book

As children progress to higher levels of reading, buddy reading can come back into play again. If a child reads so slowly that it takes him a month to finish a chapter book, he may be discouraged from starting the next one. But if I can read it along with him, he can get through a whole chapter book in just two weeks, then he may be all the more excited to start the next one. So I read a page or two, and then my son reads a page or two, and we work our way through the chapters.

Buddy reading shares the load and encourages more reading, and, more importantly, better feelings about reading.

Has buddy reading been a help for your struggling reader? Please share in the comments below.

Are you looking for a multisensory approach to teaching reading? Be sure to download my free e-book, The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach. You’ll learn all about this powerful multisensory approach to teaching, along with how it forms the backbone of the All About Reading and All About Spelling programs.

The Power of the Orton-Gillingham Approach

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Joanna

says:

I appreciated the suggestions in this article and have used buddy reading with my kids – when books seem overwhelming, breaking it down by sharing pages had been extremely encouraging to my kids . . . And to me as well!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Joanna,
I am so happy to hear that buddy reading is working well for you and your kids! It made a huge difference for my daughter.

Vicky

says:

What a great article! I have been doing this with my so and I has truely made all the difference in his reading and confidence.

oluwatomisin

says:

Comment
I Love these…..

Hollie

says:

I’ve never thought of trying the “Buddy System”: What a great idea! I have planned on starting “Runaway Ralph” with the kids; so instead of reading it to them, I will let my ten year old read some and let my six year old read words she knows; hopefully this will help both children be great readers!

Terri

says:

This definitely helps with my daughter. We use the TOON books also. They are comic/graphic novels for young readers and they are absolutely awesome. Since I bought some Benny and Penny books, my daughter can’t put them down. There are small chunks of text for her to read and they use the words she needs to practice. If you haven’t seen these, please check them out. http://www.toon-books.com/level-2-grades-1-2.html Sometimes she reads one character and I read the other. My former reluctant reader now can’t put these books down! Along with AAR, I finally feel like her struggles will end and she will enjoy reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What cute books, Terri! Thank you for the recommendation, and thank you for letting us know that your daughter is becoming a reader!

Holly S

says:

I sometimes use a completely different version of buddy reading to encourage my daughter through the (previously dreaded) fluency pages. We are now in AAR level 3, and even though she can read through them rather quickly now, they aren’t exciting to her. So our solution is she reads a small section of her fluency page, then I read two pages of the chapter book I am reading aloud to her and we switch off in that way. She is excited to continue so we can hear more of the story, and it doesn’t take very much extra time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Holly,
What a clever way to motivate her to read her fluency pages! Thank you for sharing this.

Amy

says:

I do what a few others have commented on: I read only the words that my DS8 has not learned how to read yet. This allows us to read some high interest early chapter books, while he is mid way through AAR2. In addition, when we finish a page, I then read that whole page myself. DS8 says that it makes it a lot more fun, because it gives his mind a break. The only hesitation I have is that he is a word guesser, and a very, very good one.

Gail Timmer

says:

I use this all the time with my struggling readers. They love it and it takes off a lot of pressure. The first time we read, I tell them the red words if they don’t know them right away. Success! It is all about success and building confidence 😊

Candace

says:

And this whole time I thought the student HAD to read it all on his own with minimal help!! Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Candace,
That is the ultimate goal, but that doesn’t have to be where you start. When I was doing this with my daughter, she would read the story by herself with little to no help on the third day, the third time through the story.

However, that was a year or so ago, and just last week she read the first story in AAR 3. She initially commented on how many words there were per page and how small the writing was, yet she finished the whole thing by herself with very little help in just one setting. And for her it was no big deal, although I know it was a huge achievement because reading has been such a struggle for her for so long.

Buddy reading was a tool we used for a while to help my daughter to stay motivated and not be overwhelmed so that she could become the reader she is today.

Jenny B.

says:

This post helped me so much! Thank you! I had already started buddy reading with my 7-year-old, but we were just trading off paragraphs, and then moving on to the next lesson. I was trying to do a lesson a day when we first started, and that was not working. I felt discouraged, and he was tired and frustrated. I started doing your version of buddy reading last week, and also slowed our pace to just the 20-30 minutes per day, and things are going SO much better! I was so surprised and PROUD when my son read the whole story on the third day! :) The only thing I’m still concerned about is that reading the entire story takes longer than 20-30 minutes. Whether he is reading it independently or we are buddy reading, it usually takes 40-45 minutes. We are using AAR Level 3. We might should have started with Level 2, but he had just finished Level 2 at school, and I didn’t want to repeat. Anyway, this method of buddy reading has helped tremendously!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jenny,
Was his school using All About Reading level 2? AAR level 2 doesn’t equate to other programs’ level 2. All About Reading groups words in a logical manner based on similar rules or patterns regardless of their supposed grade level, which allows students to progress quickly and confidently.

Since the AAR 3 stories are taking him so long, consider only doing half a story a day. We have found that spending just 20 minutes a day is the best way to go. This blog post, Reading: how much time should I spend?, explains this further. The added benefit of doing just half a story a day is that it will slow your forward progress down even more, which will allow him the time to build up his fluency in reading. As he becomes more fluent and able to read smoothly without having to sound out very much, his speed will naturally improve.

However, also consider having him read the AAR 2 sample story and see how he does. You want him to be reading fluently with good comprehension, and if he isn’t able then AAR 2 would be the best level.

Evaluate (without correcting him) for the following…
His ability to decode the words in the story.
His ability to comprehend the story.
Could he fluently read the story with expression?
Did he understand the words from a vocabulary standpoint?

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have further questions.

Amy

says:

Thank you for sharing this. My 5-yr-old daughter is ready to start reading words but scared of failure and won’t try. I never push her. She is an extrovert and loves teamwork so I think something like this would make a great difference in her desire to try. I might try Buddy Reading every other word with her.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amy,
The next time you miss read a word when you are reading aloud to her (we all do it from time to time), be sure to stop and say something about it to your daughter. Everyone makes mistakes with reading, but the more you read the fewer mistakes you make. Pointing out your own mistakes may help her be more comfortable with her mistakes.

If buddy reading every other word with her helps her gain confidence, then do so. But try to transition up to every other phrase. It will help her to read more smoothly and with expression for her to read a phrase at a time.

Lastly, she is still very young, so just playing with phonogram sounds and doing oral blending games for a while may help. You could give her the sounds /c/-/a/-/t/ and then see if she can guess the word. Here is some other activities you can play out too.

bev russell

says:

Would love to try these materials. My daughter and I use Buddy reading.

Robin, you have such a lovely reading voice!
I don’t remember if I read about these here, or on a link from here, or somewhere else. But I ordered all of the books by Mary Ann Hoberman called You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You. Alternating one line to four line passages. Fairy Tales, Very Short Stories, Tall Tales, and Scary Tales. I got two of the Scary ones so I can give one to my grandson and I’m hoping to read with him via FaceTime after Christmas.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Nancy,
Thank you, but I am a bit self-conscious about recordings of myself. I guess that’s normal; it just doesn’t sound like I sound to myself.

Thank you for these great recommendations for buddy reading book!

Merry at AALP

says:

Robin, my dd actually did a science fair project on the human voice, and learned why we sound different to ourselves on a recording–it’s all because of bone conduction! The bones in a person’s face vibrate and help to produce sound, and this enhances what we hear–but others don’t hear those enhancements. (I’m sure she could explain it much more clearly, but it really was a fascinating project.) Anyway, I digress…

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Fascinating, and it makes perfect sense. Thank you.

Nancy Barth

says:

Homeschooling With Dyslexia is where I heard about the books. In one of her classes

Gale

says:

I’d sometimes use books that have speech bubbles for buddy reading (like Piggy and Elephant or any comic book). It breaks things up into smaller parts and the kids like taking a “part.”

I wish I could find some more early readers (very early readers) like this, that had one character that always had a more limited vocab and one that had longer words.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Gale,
I’ve never heard of any such book, but it would be awesome! I, personally, would love to see it in comic book/graphic novel format. It would be more appealing to older struggling readers.

Dee Anne

says:

Thank you so much for sharing this simple strategy! We will definitely be implementing it into our reading lessons.

Becky Colvin

says:

Our 6-year-old grandson had a daily melt down last year when it was time for reading. This year we implemented a form of buddy reading which is tailored to beginning students. An adult reads a sentence twice, using his finger to keep our grandson focused on the words being read. The sentence is read at a normal speed with expression. Then they read the sentence together twice–again with expression and at a normal speed. Finally, our grandson reads the sentence by himself twice. To teach fluency, we may stop along the way and discuss what is being said and why and then considered how a person would feel and say things. This year he actually looks forward to reading with Papa.

Melissa

says:

This is such a great idea! I think this will definitely encourage my daughter to keep on reading! :) Thank you for sharing this idea!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
You are welcome. It is very encouraging to students!

Cynthia Trejo

says:

At first when I started Buddy Reading I thought I was going to make my son dependent on me to read. He is getting so much better, especially when he really likes the story and doesn’t realize he is still reading when it would be my turn.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Cynthia,
Isn’t it funny how it works? It’s painless how buddy reading slowly builds up their reading stamina until they don’t even need you anymore.

This week my daughter read her AAR 2 story well by herself, but she wanted to buddy read so much that she happily read beyond her 20 minutes of AAR just so I could buddy read it with her. I think it seems more “together” for her, even though when she reads alone I’m still right there with her.

Michelle

says:

Buddy reading is incredible for learning and for quality time together! With my oldest, he was very discouraged with reading and getting very frustrated. We started with buddy reading – him a sentence, then me a sentence. Quickly, I noticed he would continue past his sentence, interested in what he was doing. We then moved to paragraphs. In just a short period of time, he was reading past his paragraph and into mine with no problem, so we started alternating pages. We started this in kindergarten. He is now in 4th grade. He loves to read. He never fights or argues when asked to do so. He has great standardized test scores on reading and vocabulary. I’m now starting buddy reading with my second son!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Michelle,
Thank you so much for sharing how buddy reading has worked in your home!

Aimee

says:

This is a great tip to remember. I never realized that reading every other word would be that encouraging to a child, but I am definitely going to keep this tip in my mind for tough reading days!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Aimee,
We actually don’t recommend reading every other word. Doing so can encourage choppy, staccato reading, and we want to encourage smooth, fluent reading (legato, to continue the music metaphor). Instead of every other word, start with every other phrase or every other sentence, and build up to every other paragraph and then every other page.

Karen

says:

It was not long ago that my son struggled so bad with learning to read that HE realized it was just too hard. *sigh I had to pull back for a while to get rid of his frustration and feeling that he would never read. During that time I not only read to him like I always had but started sneaking in buddy reading without him even noticing at first. It started as a game, my finger under each word I read and if he read the word ‘and’ before me he could grab an m&m to eat while I read. lol It didn’t take long to where he wanted to read other single words throughout and then the last sentence of each page etc. etc. He is 8 and has a ways to go before being a full on self reader which I know if we had continued on with AAR it would help. (we DO use AAS now but stopped AAR after finishing level 1 only because of finances)

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Karen,
What a clever way to encourage your son to start trying again! Thank you for sharing it.

kristen

says:

I notice a great increase in understanding when I read with my child and help them sound out the words and understand what they are reading.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Great point, Kristen.

Laura Stephenson

says:

Buddy reading has helped my daughter to see her own success in reading. It gives her confidence and helps the reading time move along in such a way that she does not feel overwhelmed. Thank you for the reading tips.

Debbie

says:

This concept took the drudgery out of reading for my fourth child who was excited to learn to read, but frustrated at the length of time it took to decode words at first.

Kate

says:

I’ve found that my daughter definitely is more excited about reading when we use the buddy system. It gives her a chance to follow as I read and helps develop her voice/style of reading aloud.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kate,
Yes, sharing the reading makes it so much more fun!

Wendy Clark

says:

We do this quite a lot. He is thriving with AAR, but some days you just need a little help and encouragement.

Melanie G

says:

This has helped our family a lot. My daughter didn’t like making mistakes infront of anyone and so she’d only try reading with me. I coach my older son to buddy read with her and they both enjoy their special time together with me in earshot.

Anne

says:

Yes! I recently started buddy reading with my son for all the same reasons you mentioned in this post. He loves. Often I would just get him started, and then he surprised me by how long he wanted to read before I had another turn. We also have been using two books. I hold my own and he holds his own. This also gives him increased independence to make sure he’s following along in his own book. If I don’t have a double copy, we just borrow an extra one from the library.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anne,
I wish I had double copies of the books I buddy read, but so often they aren’t available about the library and I just can’t bring myself to buy double copies when there are so many wonderful books I don’t own yet. ;) Still, it would make things easier. Thank you for the suggestion.

Decia Newby

says:

This sounds like a great idea. I have five kids the oldest is 5.

Morgan

says:

My child had done well with this. It’s good for hearing how a fluent reader would read and also to model reading strategies/ thinking out loud while the parent reads their page.

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