They were little kids once, unsure of what to expect from big kids they passed in the halls, but now, everything is different. They are the big kids.
A trio of Marion Elementary School fifth grade students offered insight into the school’s Book Buddies activity, which pairs older and younger students in effort to promote literacy, education, and school unity by fostering new connections.
“It was scary,” Natalie Sigel, 10, said. “We were in first grade and we had sixth graders as our book buddies. They were just huge. I mean they were so big. They were like giants. ”
Grace Hett, 10, remembered being small, too.
“It was kinda weird,” Grace said. “We were so tiny compared to them, and they knew a lot more stuff than us.”
Natalie added, “And you don’t know who they are.”
“I was shy,” Brayden Blackman, 10, said. “I didn’t know what to say.”
Book Buddies meet every other Friday when the school would usually have an assembly.
Natalie said students meet new buddies almost every time, but sometimes they already know their buddies. She giggled recalling how one big buddy gave her a lesson in demolition.
“I had my cousin, Cameron, once,” she said. “He ate my gingerbread house when we did a Christmas activity.”
Grace said one of her big buddies, Rope Uhl, would ask her how she was doing and taught her how to spell.
Fifth grade instructor Tina Hague said older students really begin to look out for each other.
Grace, Natalie, and Brayden displayed that they know there is responsibility that goes along with being a big buddy.
“Now we have to tell them how to do things the right way,” Grace said. “If you don’t act right they’ll go crazy, start bouncing off the walls and do something wrong and the teachers will get mad.”
Big buddies are supposed to be good examples, Brayden said.
“It’s important because all kids have a buddy,” he said. “We show them how to be respectful.”
Natalie said little buddies also look up to their big buddies.
“They follow us around,” she said. “We try to keep them out of trouble and we have to make sure they don’t get mad when we play games. We have to explain the rules because they don’t know what’s going on.”
With responsibility also comes a reward of connecting with other people.
“I love being a big buddy because the littles look up at you and their like ‘Hi’ and it’s just so cute,” Grace said.
Brayden said he likes being a big buddy better than being a little buddy.
“You know the people better,” Brayden said. “I got better at talking, too.”
Natalie likes meeting different little buddies getting hugs, and holding their hands.
“It’s cool to be a big kid but we’re not just big giants to them anymore,” Natalie said.
She also offered her perspective on the future.
“We’re top dogs now,” Natalie said. “Then we go right down to being little underdogs when we go to middle school next year.”
MES Principal Justin Wasmuth brought the Book Buddies idea from a previous school. He said reading simply serves as a springboard for students to connect.
“Whether it is making cards for Valentines, playing games, or just talking, it can grow into what teachers want it to be,” Wasmuth said. “That connection makes a big difference in how students interact with each other.”