Eighth-grader Oscar Gallant was paired with kindergartner Julian Lilbourn for the recent reading buddies project at Bath Middle and Dike Newell schools. Contributed / Adelle Carter

Bath Middle School teacher Adelle Carter remembers facilitating reading buddies projects with her sixth grade classes years ago when they partnered with her own children’s kindergarten classes.

She held on to the books the older students wrote for her two kids as treasured keepsakes and she hopes this year’s Dike Newell kindergartners will do the same after buddying up with her eighth graders.

If the kindergartners’ excitement upon receiving their personalized books is any indication, they will, Carter’s eighth graders say.  

The reading buddies project culminates with each eighth grader writing and illustrating a book personalized for their kindergarten partners based on topics the younger students specifically expressed interest in. Some of the topics were “treat others the way you want to be treated,” “take responsibility for your actions” and “if you work together, you can accomplish a lot more,” the eighth graders said.

They portrayed each of their reading buddies as characters in the personalized books, sometimes presented as superheroes, unicorns and, in one case, a dump truck.

First the eighth graders are taught about story structure and archetypes, and then they prepare lesson plans about story elements for their kindergartners, created around topics the younger students express interest in and using age-appropriate books on those topics.


“It made me think about how much respect we need to give to teachers because it was really difficult,” said eighth grader DJ Rogers.

Rogers was assigned to three “rambunctious” kindergarten students, Carter said, and their teacher pointed out how rare it was to see those three children sitting still together and attentively listening as Rogers read to them. “They all sat there and looked up at him like he was the coolest kid in the world,” she said.

The eighth graders said they were glad to have the opportunity to demonstrate the fun of reading.

“Reading is a thing we do a lot as a society so it’s probably good to get them into it young, so they don’t have hard times in school later on,” said student Shaeleigh Coombs.

Coombs and other eighth graders said the reading buddies project made them want to try more creative writing and illustrating. 

“I think now that I have experience with it, I’m going to try drawing little pictures for books I want to write, because that was really fun, and I’d do it again,” Coombs said. 


The eighth graders used a variety of art styles to create the illustrations for the books.

“One student used an AI website where they typed a description and a style they wanted, and it created the scene for them,” Carter said.

Kindergarten teachers were grateful for the eighth graders’ hard work, she said.

“They were very open to working with us in the future because they saw such success with it … The kindergarteners were very proud to have their books,” said Carter.

In the future, she said, she’d like to see the reading buddies program evolve into an ongoing mentorship as both sets of students get older.

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