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Albert Harris gets books from Virginia’s first lady
Rising sixth-graders Thearia Gunter (from left), Jesse Brimmer and Marcus Redd get ready to launch marshmallow catapults after reading the book “The Marshmallow Wars” during a summer program at Albert Harris Elementary School. Students will get to take the books home, thanks to a book donation from Scholastic publishing and Virginia’s first lady Maureen McDonnell. (Contributed photo)
Albert Harris Elementary School is one of two elementary schools in Virginia chosen by first lady Maureen McDonnell to receive a book donation from Scholastic publishing.
At McDonnell’s selection, Scholastic donated 250 hardcover books to Albert Harris and 250 to a school in Prince George County. Students in summer classes have used the books for learning activities before getting to take a book (or two) home to keep.
“We were surprised and very thrilled to be one of two schools chosen for this honor by the first lady,” said Albert Harris Principal Tamra Vaughan. “We’re very grateful for the books.”
Using the books in summer school classes will help students who have weaknesses in reading develop their skills and “hopefully get them more interested in reading,” Vaughan said. Also, “if they’ve used the books for activities in summer school, they’ll have more meaning.”
Scholastic sent a selection of books on a variety of subjects and reading levels, she said. Teachers were allowed to select the titles to distribute to their classes based on age and connections to the curriculum.
Rising first-graders recently read a nonfiction book about farm animals and a fictional story called “Princess Pigtoria and the Pea,” a twist on a popular fairy tale starring a pig.
“They’ve been using the books to compare and contrast fiction and nonfiction, and learning about farm animals,” said teacher Elizabeth Jent. “They’ve really enjoyed the books.”
The class is doing related activities to build literacy skills before taking the books home. In Princess Pigtoria, for instance, the title character orders a pizza covered in toppings that start with “P.” It was a good opportunity for students to brainstorm more words that start with “P,” Jent said, and they will make their own “pizzas” out of construction paper later this week.
In Renita Street’s summer school class, students were enjoying reading about exotic animals in “The Adventures of Riley: Safari in South Africa.” The rising fourth-graders were eager to share facts they had learned from the book, such as that hippos eat meat (but “they don’t eat people,” said one boy) and that cheetahs have a unique pattern of stripes on their tails that are like a human’s fingerprints.
Rising fourth-grader Maria Johnson said she learned “about animals and their habitats, and what they do and what they eat.” Students learned some new vocabulary words about the food chain, including “prey and predator, omnivore” and others, Maria said.
“There are a lot of connections with what we’re learning,” Street said.
In Greg Hackenberg’s classroom, rising sixth-graders were reading a book called “The Marshmallow War” and working in reading groups to answer comprehension questions. Afterward, students got to launch their own marshmallow catapults if they answered a question correctly. Later this week, they will do activities with “The Adventures of Ook and Gluk,” a book by the same author as the popular “Captain Underpants” series.
“It’s very beneficial for students to read these high-interest, high-quality hardcover books that they get to keep forever,” Hackenberg said, adding that he hopes students will “pass them along to their younger brothers and sisters.”
Reading aloud in class using “an enjoyable book helps them with their fluency” as well as their pure enjoyment of reading, he said.
(Editor’s note: Kim Barto is community outreach and grants coordinator for Martinsville Schools.)