Monday, December 30, 2002

It takes two Program matches teens with younger students

It takes two Program matches teens with younger students
Article from:The Beacon News - Aurora (IL) Article date:December 30, 2002Author:Donna DeFalco More results for:jeanine nicarico Literacy

The Kid to Kid mentoring program pairs Melissa Bowden, Waubonsie Valley High School student, with Alexa McCoy of Young Elementary School in Aurora.

Lines of students going to and from their classrooms walk single file along the perimeter of the Library Media Center at Young Elementary School in Aurora, but the light chatter doesn't bother a trio engrossed in a book at one of the library tables. Two fifth-graders, Alexa McCoy and Devin Dean, and Melissa Bowden, a senior at Waubonsie Valley High School, are reading a book titled, Skeleton, Skeleton, All About Bones. The youngsters take turns reading each chapter and Bowden asks questions and offers suggestions as they read.
Teens don't usually frequent elementary schools during the school day, but Bowden has come as part of a program called Kid to Kid.

During this past semester, once a week during her lunch break, Bowden breezed into Young Elementary School, picked up a visitor's badge and a bag of books in the office. She walked up the stairs to bring the two fifth-grade students to the media center where the three read together for 30 minutes from books selected by Kathy Klees, Young's instructional consultant.

Bowden is a student in the early learning lab at Waubonsie and was eligible to participate in the Kid to Kid program. Because she teaches 3- , 4- and 5-year-olds twice a week, she wanted an opportunity to interact with older students, so she was matched with Alexa and Devin.

The two students have increased their reading fluency with Bowden's help, said Klees, who coordinates the program at the school.

"The more kids read at their instructional level, the more progress they will make at their grade level," Klees said.

The time spent with a high school student is beneficial for the elementary school children, Klees said.

"Time with a young adult is so powerful for all these kids," she said. "I think the teachers so value the additional assistance."

Some of the high school students will read with youngsters; others will help the teacher as needed. In addition to Bowden, there are several other Waubonsie students who also help out at Young, including Rachel Watterson, Bridget Glowskis, Arin Agase, Adam Roe and Laura Weir.

To give the teens a more structured way to help the students with reading, Young's reading specialist Pat Smith instructed them in the "pause, prompt and praise" method that has been used at the school.

Last year, Smith received a Jeanine Nicarico Literacy Grant to purchase books to implement the program in September that she discovered in the education journal Reading Teacher.

Klees said that the reading method has students not only looking at the phonetics in the words to help sound it out, but also looking at the word within the context of the sentence to help figure out the meaning.

Alexa and Devin may not know the ins and outs of the curriculum, but they do know that they love to read, especially with their high school reading buddy.

"I've learned to like reading more," Alexa said.

Her favorite book they have read together is "Flying Solo," which she explained is about skateboarding and how to do different tricks.

Devin said, "I read more here every day."

He said his favorite book is about the weather and features hurricanes and tornadoes.

Klees wishes the Kid to Kid program could be extended to all children in the district.

"It's the attention they're getting (that helps them learn). It's someone to look forward to," she said.

Hugh Flanders, social studies department chairman at Neuqua Valley High School, said the Kid to Kid program began in 1990. There currently are about 150 students participating at Neuqua.

"We began it very simply as kind of a way to get kids out of the boundaries of the traditional classroom and to get them to help out with and interact with the kids at the elementary schools," he said.

Students enrolled in the developmental psychology class participate in the program and apply what they are doing in the elementary schools to their class lessons.

Though it's not meant to be a teacher preparation program, Flanders said many students have such a good experience that they go on to be teachers.

Karen Morrow, social studies department chairman at Waubonsie, is in charge of her school's Kid to Kid program. About 75 to 80 students at Waubonsie Valley participate in the program.

"(The teens) do a lot of journaling and recording of experiences and they do class discussions," she said. "You do a lot of extra work in the Kid to Kid program. You do have assignments for your classroom teacher as well -- everything from journaling to some analysis of your student."

Morrow knows firsthand the benefits for high school and elementary school students because her two sons were involved in the program.

Her older son is now an elementary school teacher in Palos Park and her younger son thought it was a really good experience.

"It's giving kids a taste of education who want to go into education," she said.

That's Bowden's goal -- to become a teacher.

"I want to teach fifth grade," she said.

The reason for her decision to go into education is that her fifth-grade teacher, Tracey Stiles (then known as Tracey Campbell), at Brooks Elementary School, was a role model for her.

"She didn't only care about how you were in class, but out of class. She treated everyone the same," she said. "Just the way she taught -- I want to be just like her."

Reading with the two fifth-graders proved to be not only beneficial for the students, but also for Bowden, who said the reward is "just knowing that I've helped."