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RHMS falls into a good book

General education “peer” readers spend one morning a week reading aloud to the severe special needs students at Rocky Heights Middle School as part of the school’s “Fall into a good book” reading program.

Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS) has a new book buddy program this school year as part of its goal for literacy promotion. General education (peer) students team up with significant special needs (SSN) students and read together with the theme: “Fall into a good book.”

“We realized that everyone loves storybooks from a young age into adulthood,” said special education teacher Shana Fraley.

At the beginning of the school year, teachers nominated students from all three grades, sixth through eighth, who had demonstrated leadership and kindness to participate in the program.

The magic happens every week when peer students read storybooks aloud to SSN students during Access, a school-wide study hall. The SSN group listens as four peer readers share favorite and classic storybooks. Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch Who Stole Christmas was a popular one around the holidays. Currently, the book buddies are reading a variety of classic children’s titles like The Three Little Pigs, The Rainbow Fish and The Polar Express.

This reading program benefits all of the participating students as students of all abilities interact together over the love of good books.

The feedback has been positive. The SSN students report that they enjoy the reading time and many of the peers expressed interest in pursuing other opportunities to interact with the SSN community.

“It has been a fun activity to start the day with because everyone truly loves stories,” Shana said.

In the beginning, Shana proposed the book buddy reading program to RHMS’s culture and climate committee, who approved and helped with implementation. Its success is something that the school wants to continue and expand on in the future.

Book buddies also encourages other school-wide themes of inclusion and friendship.

“Middle school is a crucial time for social development,” concluded Shana. “Inclusive environments promote positive social interactions, helping students develop empathy, understanding and acceptance.” Book buddies helps build a social foundation to create a sense of belonging, while simultaneously reducing feelings of exclusion.

Fall into a good book, the original theme for inclusionary story time at Rocky Heights Middle School, has been a resounding success this year. Students of all abilities enjoy reading story books together.


By Celeste McNeil; photos courtesy of Shana Fraley



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