Family Engagement Center Coordinator AJ Walker and Supervisor of Special Education Lori Graham recently launched a new social skills program for Rockland BOCES COVE students at South Orangetown Middle School in partnership with SOMS Character Education classes.
Once a week, SOMS students go to the library during their character education classes to assist their partner in picking out a book, which they then read together and talk about afterwards.
“We began this program as we continue to take steps to further integrate our students attending specialized programs with their peers in grades 6-8 at SOMS. We felt that the library was the perfect place to connect our students so they can share their love of reading with each other,” said Walker. “It has only been a couple of weeks, and the relationships are clearly building between the students, which is really amazing to see.”
SOMS COVE teacher Beth Doremus noted, “The students look forward to going to the library and reading with a buddy each week. It’s a fun learning experience for all the students. It is also a great social opportunity for the students to make new friends beyond their classroom. Now they recognize each other in the hallways and the cafeteria and say hello!”
SOMS Character Education teacher Joe Napoli has also seen how eager his sixth grade students are to participate in the program. “The opportunity for the sixth grade Character Education students to read with the COVE students allows them to practice their social emotional learning, which is a pillar of the class. It allows students to practice character qualities such as kindness and compassion as well as practice their own reading skills and public speaking,” explained Napoli. “I ask the students who would like to go to the library and almost every time, the entire class raises their hands, so we rotate so that everyone gets a chance. We have a select few students that have built a great rapport with some of the COVE students so they go every time.”