WALTON — How do you keep squirrelly junior-high students from zoning out three weeks before summer?
One Lewis Cass teacher put them in charge of first-graders.
Students in Amy Scott’s eighth-grade reading class on Friday visited Lisa Farrer’s first-grade class at Thompson Elementary School in Walton to introduce the children to short picture books and help them learn to identify the main characters and their characteristics.
Scott’s 11 students chose one or two of the 17 first-graders in Farrer’s class Friday to read books like “Clifford’s Good Deeds” by Norman Bridwell or “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. Some of Scott’s students read their books’ characters with different voices and expressions, at times responding to children’s questions or exclamations.
The eighth-graders then helped the first-graders make what Scott called “character cubes” — paper cutout cubes with information about the main book character’s physical and character traits, a drawing of the character and what each student most enjoyed about the story.
“This is a very nice treat” for the first-graders, Farrer said. The children look up to older students greatly, she said, “and they always love to take something home. They’re very concrete.”
It also inspires them to read more, she said — the first-graders often pay attention to the author of the book that’s read to them and look for other books by that author the next time they visit the school library.
While children usually enjoy being read to in part because of the attention they get, reading aloud is also important for developing language skills.
A 2007 report by the Reach Out and Read National Center in cooperation with University of California-Los Angeles and the Boston University School of Medicine said even picture books with their simple, straightforward sentences enhance children’s learning because children also talk about the story with their older reader.