A confidence boost for young readers

Ana West is taking part in The Smith Family's student2student reading program. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

Ana West is taking part in The Smith Family's student2student reading program. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

GETTING lost in a book is no longer a chore for one young Kiama student - it's a joy.

Her mother believes a peer-to-peer reading program has helped her daughter gain confidence and no longer feel like a "bad reader".

The Smith Family's student2student program is designed to improve the reading skills of children in years 3 to 8, who have a reading age up to two years behind their chronological age.

The program matches eight to 12-year-olds with reading "buddies", who are trained to improve literacy skills in peers.

Students and buddies who don't have access to a landline are provided with principal sponsor Optus' mobile phones, to read aloud to each other.

Student2student's 2014 term began this month in Kiama.

Participants connect via phone two to three times a week over an 18-week period, for 20 minutes a time.

New participants begin with a reading test to determine their comprehension and reading level.

Kiama single parent Melinda Michail said her daughter Ana, 9, participated in the program last year, and was doing so again in 2014.

She became involved soon after being placed in a reading recovery group at school.

The Kiama Public School year four student has already begun working with her new "buddy", Grace.

"Ana looks forward to the calls," Ms Michail said.

"She likes someone focused, listening to the reading, and loves all the different books she gets to read."

Ms Michail said her daughter had previously lacked confidence in her reading skills.

"She previously referred to herself as a 'bad reader', but these days Ana reads with expression, has great comprehension, and her spelling has improved.

"I think it was more of a confidence issue. I knew she had the makings of a great reader, but I'm not sure she knew it."

The Smith Family's NSW general manager Steve Macready said the secret of student2student's success was addressing factors in becoming a better reader - practice and motivation.

"Getting lost in a book shouldn't be a privilege or a chore. It should be an activity all Australian kids enjoy."

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