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The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

The student news site of Little Rock Central High School

The Tiger Online

Bonding Through Books

Student’s Love of Reading Inspires Elementary Schoolers
Senior Sarah Tarawally reads books to her small group. Photo by Sybil Curran

Every other Wednesday at MLK Elementary School, a group of “big kids” walk into 3rd grade classrooms where elementary students run up to them with books to share. Suhana Mustaq began the club, Tiger Book Buddies, in 2022 where students visit MLK Elementary School to read to third graders on Wednesdays from 7:30-8:15 in order to help classes of third graders begin to enjoy reading rather than being bored with it.

 “We only do third graders, because it’s like, a pivotal time in their learning experience. Especially with reading, because there’s a gap in chapter books available to them, we’ll just kind of help them understand those bigger words that start coming up more often,” said Mustaq.

Mustaq first begins by doing a group read with all third graders, followed by splitting up into small groups so that students get more one-on-one time. Mustaq also wants to ensure that kids are not afraid of high schoolers either.

“Our goal is to get them excited about books, so that’s why we do it,” said Mustaq. “ Also we want to make sure they’re not as afraid of bigger kids like us, because it’s pretty scary to have a bunch of, six foot, like five foot eight kids like walking into your third grade classroom.”

The club has been successful at increasing students’ reading levels and is even planning a trip to the Clinton library to make sure students can have access to a library card, hoping to increase reading time at home as well. Their goal is to keep them motivated, even after their time in the program ends.

“The reason for the field trip is because a lot of the kids we’ve worked with who have started to really enjoy reading as a hobby, don’t actually have the resources to get their own books outside of school. Hopefully the trip will help them see what is out there,” Mustaq said.

The club is sponsored by counselor Stephanie Allajaj, who got the idea from the teacher sorority group she is in, kicking off the club. Tiger Book Buddies has been recognized for its effect on the community, receiving the Red Rose Award from a local sorority in Arkansas. However, the club does come with a few slight challenges.

 “Last week, we had a lot of trouble with practicing pronouncing the word Massachusetts. They learned about Silent E. They were very passionate about the fact that all letters deserve to be silent,” said Mustaq. “They decided that Massachusetts was to be pronounced as chusetts because they believe that the M’s, A’s, S ‘s deserved to be silent. But we got through that this morning, and we decided that Massachusetts is a better pronunciation. Sometimes there are just little things like that, but they keep it interesting.”

Ritha Meenachi, a senior member of the club, originally joined because of how fondly she remembered being read to as a kid. As the Tiger Book Buddies come to the school more often, the third graders have gotten even more excited to read, and to see their older, high school friends. 

“When we first began to read to third graders, they seemed bored, but now as the weeks go on, they are getting more and more excited and love when we come. They are actually looking forward to it now. It’s rewarding to see because that was kind of the whole point in the beginning, for them to look forward to this integral part of education.” 

Senior Josh Ghormley joined the club for the same reason Meenachi did. 

“I’ve always loved reading, and so I thought it’d be a good opportunity to read with kids who are in our own public school system and give the joy of reading,” said Ghormley. 

Ghormley enjoys getting to see the kids’ personalities and independence thrive. 

“My favorite part is when we get into the smaller groups, and the kids pick out books that reflect their own interests. So it’s like a way for them to sort of show their kind of identity and really connect with us as high schoolers, and I feel like that makes the experience worth it,” said Ghormley.

Sheila Fields, 3rd grade teacher at MLK, has also begun to notice a big shift in her students’ attitude towards English and reading. Whereas they were once stubborn and unwilling, they now associate the subject with something positive, like getting to see the Central students. 

“The children love it when they come to see us. Students who weren’t as excited to read at first, are now starting to show a real interest,” said someone. “They take it as a really big deal that high school students come in to read with them, so I really hope we always continue this program. It seems so important to them now, which is a really promising sign for the future.”

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About the Contributor
Sybil Curran
Sybil Curran, News Editor
This is my second year on staff and I am passionate about sharing and learning about the community and giving everyone a voice. Outside of Tiger News, I play tennis and enjoy hanging out with my friends.

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