Royalston Community School carries on 6th Grade Buddy Tradition 

  • JesWillhite’s kindergarten class with their sixth grade reading buddies.  —Submitted photos

  • Sixth grade reading buddies

  • Sixth grade reading buddies

  • Sixth-grade reading buddies at Royalston Community School. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • Sixth grade reading buddies

Published: 11/28/2018 10:00:26 PM

ROYALSTON — Once a week, Jes Willhite’s kindergarten class looks forward to selecting books from the School library to read. Although it is fun to choose new books, most kindergartners agree that sharing those books with their sixth grade buddy is even more fun. On Tuesdays, the sixth graders team up with the kindergarten class and spread throughout the library while the sixth graders read to the littles. On other special occasions, the sixth graders help the littles with holiday projects, field trips, bus evacuations and special school events. Kindergarten teacher Jes Willhite has been involved with the buddy system since she started teaching at Royalston Community School. Her own children were even a part of it.

The buddy system was designed by Joann Deacon who was the kindergarten teacher when when the two schools merged into the new one. She stated, “It served many purposes, from reading buddies, to field trip partners, to all-school program friends. Throughout the years we had worked together for holiday observances, fundraising efforts, art projects, Kindergarten Class Nights, and 6th Grade Graduations.It began with a plan to give some older children a little more attention and some responsibility.  It worked into babysitting opportunities, after school play dates, and sporting event get togethers.”

The first day of school can be very overwhelming for most children. The fact that they are paired up with a sixth grader gives them an instant connection to the school - almost like a big brother or big sister.  The sixth graders are the leaders of the school, and are expected to set a good example in both behavior and academics. Ms. Deacon adds, “We discovered many benefits, most that we hadn't even anticipated, especially social and emotional gains.”

One of the Athol-Royalston Regional School District’s goals is to build literacy skills in all students across all grade levels and content areas. Both the kindergartners and the sixth graders become more invested in reading because of the emotional connection to their buddy. Sixth graders are careful to model good reading skills for their buddies, and kindergarteners are exposed to examples of good reading skills in older students.

Kindergarten student Emma Barton smiled as she said, “My sixth grade buddy’s name is Chance.  I like him. He reads to me and helped me with my haunted house.” Chance, in return says, “We read a lot of books, and I always let her pick where we are going to sit. She liked doing the haunted house activity too.”

Sixth grader Autumn Davis says, “It feels like I have a child because we take care of them, where to go, and make sure they’re doing the right thing.”  Ava Basso adds, “I think it’s a good thing because it is teaching me to care about others.” Jackson Phelps remembers, “When I was in kindergarten, I had the greatest sixth grade buddy. He dress up in a tutu and danced in the gym.”

Because of the emotional connection students feel with their buddies, An added bonus for the buddies comes when the seniors come for the walk through at the end of the year. Ms. Willhite states, “The seniors get to see their 6th grade buddies and the former kindergartners get to see their buddies as seniors.”  Everyone at RCS supports the program and plans to continue carrying the 6th grade buddy tradition for many years to come.

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