Martha Speaks Reading Buddies Newsletter
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Welcome to the first issue of the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Newsletter! MARTHA SPEAKS is an entertaining television series with a serious educational goal: building children's oral vocabulary. Each month, this newsletter will offer innovative ways that you can use MARTHA SPEAKS in the classroom, including a great new literacy tool: the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program. In this issue you will find:

In the Spotlight: What is the Reading Buddies Program?
Classroom Tips: Why focus on vocabulary?
Pup Tales: Two Reading Buddies teachers describe their experiences
More Fun with Martha: iPhone app, previews, and more
Links & Books: Useful Web sites and recommended reading

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What is the Reading Buddies Program?

The MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program is a cross-age reading program that pairs kindergarten students with 4th or 5th graders to improve their vocabulary and foster a love of books and reading.

How does the program work?

Teachers match up the younger and older students. The Reading Buddies then meet over eight, 45-minute sessions to:

1) Watch and talk about a MARTHA SPEAKS episode.

2) Read and discuss a related picture book.

3) Play a game or activity.

4) Write in a journal.

Both Little Buddies and Big Buddies improve their vocabulary knowledge and have fun with words, while supporting each other and gaining a sense of community.

Can I do the Reading Buddies Program in my classroom?

Absolutely! Everything you need to start your own Reading Buddies Program is available online at, including:

• Instructions for Teachers

• A Big Buddy Guide, Games & Activities, and a Journal

• Home-School Connections

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Why focus on vocabulary?

Research shows that oral vocabulary plays a powerful role in determining a child's academic success. Did you know:

• For many students, vocabulary is the biggest obstacle they encounter when learning to read.

• Students' oral vocabulary knowledge in first grade is an indicator of what their reading comprehension skills will be in 11th grade.

• Many kindergarten students who are English language learners or from low-income homes have a much smaller vocabulary than their peers.

Tips for teaching vocabulary:

• Talk, talk, talk! Children learn the words they hear, so simply talking with children is a great way to teach vocabulary.

• Read to children. Point out new words as you read, talk about the pictures and the story, and then use the new words in conversation.

• Use rich and varied words during everyday activities and lessons.

• Get parents and caregivers involved! Send home the Family Activity Booklet, which introduces MARTHA SPEAKS and the importance of vocabulary.

Find more tips for teaching vocabulary and hear what literacy experts such as Catherine Snow and Linda Kucan have to say about the importance of vocabulary.

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Reading Buddies Teachers Speak!

Washington, D.C. teachers Joseph Cooke and Weddy Youn have been using the MARTHA SPEAKS Reading Buddies Program since 2008 and have observed substantial benefits for their students.

"The program materials were extremely easy to use and understand," Joseph reported. Not only did his fourth graders enjoy taking on their role as Big Buddies, Joseph also noticed improvement in their reading fluency, recognition of context clues, and leadership skills.

"I loved seeing my students interact with their Big Buddies," kindergarten teacher Weddy said. "I saw their confidence improve in addition to their vocabulary knowledge."

Joseph concluded, "I highly recommend the program because it really did give both the fourth graders and the kindergartners a greater sense of confidence in their reading abilities."

To hear more from Joseph and Weddy watch their video, Reading Buddies in Action and read their article, Using Reading Buddies to Develop and Enhance Children's Vocabulary.

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Sit. Stay. Watch!

The new season of MARTHA SPEAKS begins October 11 with "The Martha Show." Look for the special Halloween episode, "Scaredy Cat," airing the week of October 25. Get a sneak preview on YouTube. MARTHA SPEAKS airs on PBSKIDS. Check local listings.

New iPhone App: Dog Party

Kids are introduced to new vocabulary as they command, feed, and play dress-up with their favorite pups. A recent study showed that target vocabulary improved up to 31% in kids who played Dog Party over a two-week period. Don't forget to tell parents and caregivers about this innovative literacy tool.

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Recommended Links

The Martha Speaks Curriculum. This in-depth exploration of the curriculum behind the MARTHA SPEAKS series explains how the series works.


Further Reading for Teachers. Books, articles, and Web sites will help you find out more about vocabulary instruction and cross-age reading programs.


Recommended Reading

Martha Speaks, by Susan Meddaugh. Houghton Mifflin, 1992. Read the book that started it all--and find out how Martha learned to speak. (Check out the MARTHA SPEAKS TV tie-in books.)


Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan. Guilford Press, 2002. Co-authored by Linda Kucan, a MARTHA SPEAKS curriculum advisor, this book provides a research-based framework and practical strategies for vocabulary development. See also Creating Robust Vocabulary: Frequently Asked Questions and Extended Examples by the same authors.

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Befuddled by vocabulary? Curious about MARTHA SPEAKS? Have a stupendous suggestion for the newsletter? We want your feedback! Email us at

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Corporate funding for MARTHA SPEAKS is provided by Chuck E. Cheese's® and Kiddie Academy® Child Care Learning Centers. Additional funding provided by Jennifer and Steven Walske and by public television viewers. Series funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Education's Ready to Learn Grant. ©2010 WGBH Educational Foundation. All rights reserved. "Martha" and all characters and underlying materials (including artwork) from the "Martha" books are trademarks and copyrights of Susan Meddaugh and used under license. All third party trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Used with permission.

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