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. 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.
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.
On Day 1, Belle would read the odd-numbered pages, and I’d read the even-numbered pages. Together we would read through the story, alternating pages, until we reached the end of the story.
Here’s a short video clip showing Day 1 in progress.
On Day 2, we’d re-read the story, but I’d read the odd-numbered pages, and Belle would read the even-numbered pages. In this manner, we would read the whole story through again, each reading the pages the other had read the day before.
On Day 3, my daughter was finally able to read the story by herself in one sitting—without tears. After two days of reading and hearing it read, Belle was familiar with the story and words. She still had to sound out many words, but not as many as on the first day. She was able to be successful.
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.
Buddy reading is 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.
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 share the reading of it with him, so that 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? I’d love to hear your story. Please share in the comments below.