In a new initiative, teachers at the Arab-American Family Support Center (AAFSC) recently launched a Reading Buddy Project with Packer Collegiate Institute, a neighbor of AAFSC, located in historic Brooklyn Heights. Packer is an independent college- preparatory day school for children, preschool through Grade 12, and is one of the oldest independent schools in Brooklyn, dating to 1845.
The Reading Buddy Project partners Packer’s intrepid fourth-graders with AAFSC’s lively adult ESL students in a collaborative reading exchange. With a selection of favorite picture books in hand, the Packer students arrive at the Center and fan out into the classroom to share reading and conversation with the adults. Words and meanings are negotiated, and pronunciation corrected. Soon, the room is brimming with smiles and laughter.
What began as a simple effort to promote reading among children and adults, the Project has grown into a multi-layered experience for everyone involved. The fourth grade is studying immigration to the USA during the 19th and 20th centuries, and the students now have the priceless opportunity to develop friendships with our country’s newest immigrant population. Meanwhile, adult learners enjoy the children’s gentle guidance and compassion.
It is difficult to determine who benefits the most from the Reading Buddy Project. Our feeling is that everyone benefits from a program that is not only a unique cultural exchange but a rare and joyful learning experience.