Eighth Grade Book Buddies is an initiative created by the West Tallahatchie School District to improve reading and self-esteem levels for students in the district. The project began in 1996 as school officials noted the high number of older students – approximately 50 between the ages of 16 and 18 – in the eighth grade. The program is conducted in the Mississippi Delta area that suffers from high illiteracy.
Each Thursday, eighth grade students from West Tallahatchie High School read to their "Book Buddies" at two local elementary schools. By reading to younger students, the eighth grade students improve their reading and self-esteem levels. The students have increased their reading levels and are now reading more than 1,500 books each semester. In addition, the number of older eighth grade students has decreased to approximately 20; overall, student participation in the program has risen to more than 200.
A tutorial program has grown from this initiative, as students in the Beta Club, an honor society at West Tallahatchie High School, tutor and assist other students every Tuesday and Thursday.