Jan 11, 2011


Book Buddies is a school-based tutoring program that uses community volunteers to help first grade students become better at reading. The program uses structured lesson plans that focus on reading, writing, and phonics. In a wait-list control group design, positive impacts were found for alphabet sounds, letter naming, spelling, identifying words, and reading letters, words, and passages.


Target population: First grade students

Book Buddies is a tutoring program to help first grade students become better at reading through structured lessons plans with tutors. The program uses community volunteers as tutors and has a reading specialist who writes and supervises the lessons and also trains and gives feedback to the tutors. Lesson plans focus on reading, writing, and phonics and involve four components: rereading familiar books, word study, writing, and reading a new book. There were five sessions across ten days from September to January, for a total of 40 sessions. The tutors attend a three-day workshop to learn about each component of the lesson plan and also receive informal training throughout the year for one hour sessions twice a week.


Evaluated population: The 55 first grade students from an elementary school in the South Bronx who received the lowest scores on a reading assessment were chosen for the study. Two students were not included because of behavior issues. The elementary school is made up of 99 percent minority students, and 99 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Sixty-nine percent of the first grade students at the school were Hispanic, thirty percent were non-Hispanic African-American, and one percent were of unknown race/ethnicity. There were 23 girls and 32 boys in the sample.

Approach: Students were matched by pre-test scores on a literacy test and were randomly assigned to receive tutoring during the first half of the school year (September to January) or the second half of the school year (January to June). Students were assessed on literacy and reading ability in September, January, and June. All of the tutors were 55 years or older and were part of the Retired Seniors Volunteer Project, which is part of the Experience Corp.

Results: There were no initial differences between the two groups. At the January assessment, the group who had received tutoring during the first half of the year outperformed the group who had been assigned to receive tutoring during the second half of the year in terms of alphabet sounds, letter naming, spelling, identifying words, and reading letters, words, and passages. There were no differences on identifying rhyming words or identifying words that start with the same letter, due to a ceiling effect. The differences between the two groups had disappeared by the June assessment, after both groups had received six months of tutoring. Despite significant improvements, only five of the children were reading at the first grade level at the end of the year.


Manual can be purchased for $35 at:



Meier, J.D., & Invernizzi, M. (2001). Book Buddies in the Bronx: Testing a model for America Reads. Journal of Education for Students Place at Risk, 6, 319-333.

Children (3-11), Elementary, Males and Females (Co-ed), Urban, School-based, Cost, Manual, Tutoring, Reading/Literacy

Program information last updated on 1/11/11.