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The Power of Kids Teaching Kids to Read

By: Angelique Caffrey - Updated: 1 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Adult Teachers Boy Classroom Daughter

One of the best ways to become proficient in a subject is to teach it to others; after all, the instructor needs to stay at least a step or two ahead of the pupil!

With this thought in mind, some nontraditional schools, home schools, families and other groups are encouraging older kids to help younger ones to read. This principle hearkens back to the "one room schoolhouse" method of learning where kids of all ages were put in one classroom and learned from the teacher as well as one another.

Though your son or daughter may be in a mainstream school, he or she could still benefit from either helping a younger student to Learn to Read or by learning to read at the tutelage of an older boy or girl.

Take a look at some of these reasons for supervising* some one-on-one literacy time between kids.

Activities should always be supervised by an adult. Even if you're merely in the room and not fully engaged in the process, it's essential to be available just in case the "teacher" is not a positive influence on the "student".

Kids Like Feeling Important

Imagine you're a youngster who is just learning to read and an adult asks you to help someone else (who is at a lower level) learn his or her ABCs or phonemes. The feelings of importance would be tremendous, and as long as the child does not feel intimidated or worried that he or she will "mess up", he or she is likely to jump at the chance to assist.

Kids Can Be Excellent Teachers

A seven- or eight-year-old can be a superb teacher for a four-year-old because he or she is much closer in age to the pupil than you. Often, kids teach using language that resonates with their younger peers… and they don't even realize they are doing so! They also tend to be patient, as long as the sessions don't last very long and they enjoy being with the student (which may not be the case if the student is a pesky younger sibling, so keep that in mind!)

Kids Feel Less Intimidated Learning from Other Kids

Some younger students are quite intimidated by adult teachers, but when they learn at the knee of an older student or sibling, they become more relaxed and thereby open to learning to read. If mistakes are made, the older student often naturally helps the younger one without punishment or impatience.

It Gives the Adult a Little Break!

Sure, you have to be in the room to supervise the process, but you don't need to be "on stage" teaching. You can take a break and just absorb the scene being played out before you. And who knows? You might just learn something about teaching kids to read that you didn't know before!

It Will Help the Older Student with His or Her Reading Development

It's not just the younger child who will benefit from the kids-teaching-kids method of learning to read, as the other child will have to stay on top of his/her game, too. In fact, a "lazy learner" might just become a quick study when he or she is given the role of instructor to play!

For Ongoing Reading Success, Keep These Items in Mind…

  • Kids aren't adults and they aren't employees. Don't penalize them if they aren't doing a "good job" of teaching another student to read.
  • Some boys and girls would prefer not to teach another student to read. If this is the case, never force them to do so, which could be detrimental to them and their "pupils".
  • Give positive reinforcement to both the teacher and the learner. Encourage breaks often and praise their progress continuously.
  • Jump into the fray sometimes! Ask the older child to help you learn to read something… or turn the tables and ask the younger student to teach the older one a reading skill, just for practice.
  • Have fun! As with all learning, the outcome will be significantly affected by how enjoyable the process has been.

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