Olive Branch teacher, students stepping up to continue reading buddy program virtually

Olive Branch Middle School students reading virtually to younger children amid outbreak

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (WMC) - Twelve-year-old Olivia Vergara likes to read. She’s been doing a lot of it since the coronavirus pandemic closed many Mid-South schools.

But Olivia isn’t just reading for herself. She’s got two buddies that she reads to regularly.

“It’s almost like they’re my other siblings away from home, kind of. They’re really fun to hang out with," said Olivia.

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Olivia’s seventh-grade teacher Karina Dey started the reading buddies program last year.

Seventh graders are paired up with first graders and every two weeks they would read and write together while in school.

“They really are able to build a relationship and get really comfortable and confident with each other," said Seventh Grade English Teacher Karina Dey.

The program nearly ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dey says she couldn’t stand to see those relationships end.

All 80 of Dey’s seventh-graders, including Olivia, are still reading to their buddies. They’re just doing it virtually.

“I can still keep in touch with them and interact with them," said Olivia.

Students record themselves reading or doing an activity then send it to Miss Dey. She then sends the message to the first-grade teachers.

“My hope is that my kids realize that even when you’re faced with challenges and there’s struggles and sadness around you that you can still find ways to stay positive and happy," said Dey.

Staying positive and happy during a time that’s proved to be anything but. All while strengthening relationships and remembering some of life’s greatest lessons.

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