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Schools: Reading is 'cool'
Monday, July 16, 2012
By KIM BARTO -
Hot outside? Cool off inside with a good book. That’s what local educators hope kids will do this summer, as the summer reading programs are under way in Martinsville Schools.
Patrick Henry Elementary School is trying something new this year on top of its normal summer reading program. Before summer vacation started, the entire school took home copies of “The Lemonade War” by Jacqueline Davies to read as part of the “One School, One Book” program.
Patrick Henry Elementary Principal Terry Wiita and a committee of teachers brainstormed ideas to promote the book after Wiita read positive feedback about the “One School, One Book” program.
“Over the years, the participation in the summer reading project has been declining,” Wiita said. “I wanted to try and do something different that would excite the students about reading and especially encourage them to read over the summer.”
“The Lemonade War” tells the story of siblings Evan and Jessie, who start competing lemonade stands one summer. To build excitement for the book, students participated in a lemonade taste test, comparing Evan and Jessie’s lemonade recipes and voting as a class which one they liked best. Teachers turned it into a math lesson, graphing the results for each class.
Then, the program kicked off with an assembly featuring a real-life “Evan” and “Jessie,” played by Jim Woods, Martinsville branch manager for the Blue Ridge Regional Library, and Max Hall, unit marketing director for Chick-fil-A in Liberty Fair Mall, respectively. Student representatives from each class took the stage to announce which lemonade recipe they had chosen as Evan and Jessie kept tallies of their points. The audience cheered loudly for its favorites as the actors hammed it up in character.
“If we can build the hype, the students’ interest builds, and they want to read to find out what happens in the real book,” Wiita said. “The students really got into it because the adults in the building really promoted it.”
The strategy apparently was successful. “We had students and parents clamoring for the books. And on the day we passed out the book, we actually had students walking out of the building with their noses in the book already reading,” she said. “What more can you ask for?”
Wiita said she hopes families will read the book together this summer. Each chapter has comprehension questions at the end that students will complete and take back to school in August. Teachers will plan some classroom activities around the book and will have a back-to-school “lemonade break” when students return, Wiita said.
Reading during school breaks is important so that students “continue to show growth and don’t backslide” while out of school, said Pam Mason, the division’s coordinator of reading and media services. “If they read as little as 15 minutes a day, it will help them maintain and improve comprehension. It helps with vocabulary development, as well.”
The summer reading program will last until July 26 at all city schools. To participate, students read at least three books, fill out a log and do an age-appropriate project during the summer. Each school offers an incentive, such as an ice cream party, for students who complete the program.
From now until July 26, school libraries are open limited hours for students to check out books. Hours are 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and 1 to 3 p.m. Thursdays.
(Editor’s note: Kim Barto is community outreach and grants coordinator for Martinsville Schools.)