Young boys in their first year at Napier Boys’ High School who struggle with reading aren’t told to hire a tutor, they are being helped by year 13s in a programme called ‘Toe by Toe’.
For six weeks, students meet twice a week with their year 13 buddy, learning how to read, but also how to comprehend the text.
Not only do the boys make strides in their learning, it is something they look forward to.
Deputy Headmaster Bruce Smith says he often gets asked: “Sir, can we go to the big boys today?”
“In some cases, it is as much about having contact with the senior boy and being encouraged by a senior student. Some of the year 9s are quiet and it improves their self-esteem by talking to the senior boys.”
Mr Smith says the programme has been going for about five years. The aim is to get the students to a reading age of at least 12 – their chronological age – and high enough to be able to take part in the curriculum. Most students in the programme end up doing NCEA.
Some boys start at a reading age of 10 to 11-years-old, while others can be as low as eight. By the end of the programme, some students have jumped three reading ages.
Students are divided into two groups; those who can read but have trouble comprehending what they have read, and those who need to go back to basics starting by learning vowel sounds.
“For whatever reason, at this time of their lives (12-13 years old) it seems to be another chance to improve their reading.”
He says they’ve probably all gone through remedial reading, but it didn’t work.
For the year 13s, they give up one study period a week to help the younger boys. At NBHS, it is a requirement to do school service and give up their own time.
Mr Smith says they are trying to teach their students that the key difference between a boy and a man is doing things for others.