Library program aims to keep kids at reading level

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Fri., Aug. 2, 2013
Sinai, 6, reads with intern Jazmynne Alexander at the Rockville Public Library's program to maintain summer reading levels on July 30. Photos by Steve Smith.
Sinai, 6, reads with intern Jazmynne Alexander at the Rockville Public Library's program to maintain summer reading levels on July 30. Photos by Steve Smith.

Some Maple Street students are getting a summer reading boost, due in part to Rockville Public Library and a grant from New Alliance Bank, as well as some help from interns, volunteers and guest readers. Rockville Public is one of only four libraries in the state to receive the three-year grant, which provides a means for readers who are at grade level to avoid the “summer slippage” and return to school in the fall at the same level. The grant is for three years, and totals $105,000.

The program is separate from the library's award-winning summer children's program and has a more precise focus. Four afternoons per week, several students visit the library's annex for about two and a half hours, and receive one-on-one (or sometimes, two-on-one) reading instruction from interns and volunteers, under the direction of reading teachers.

Each day, the focus is on one book, and an arts and crafts activity directly related to that story follows.

“It's really about reading and comprehension, and really making a connection with what you are reading about,” said Sharon Redfern, the library's head of fund development. “One day we read 'Frog and Toad,' so we made frog puppets, we made frog cupcakes, and they wrote letters to friends.” The group also wrote about qualities that make for good friends, and created friendship wreaths.

Redfern said the program will hopefully expand to include students from other schools and programs.

Maureen Kearney – reading consultant at Maple Street School – said the students were selected because they fit the program, and the curriculum was developed for maintaining fluency and comprehension, as well as the specific skills the students learned in the past year. “What we're doing is some read-alouds of books at their level,” Kearney said, “and then writing activities and assessments of what they've learned in the past year.”

Kearney said kids who are at grade level, but who have worked hard in the past year, were targeted for the program. “There are so many that we've worked hard with during the school year, but then they come back [after the summer] and they've lost it all,” Kearney said.

On July 30, Ellington author Dorothy May Voyer read her book, "The Big Jump," to the students. After reading the story, the students were asked to tell what lessons they learned from the story.

“Before you bully somebody, look at yourself,” one child said.

“Keep practicing,” said another.

Voyer also entertained questions from the students about being an author, which seemed to greatly heighten the children's interest in writing. She said that she gets her ideas from many places, including her grandchildren, as well as from observing nature.

“The other day I was looking at a little inchworm and I wondered where he was going,” she said. “I wondered if he has something in mind, what he does, or what he's all about.”

“What I like about writing is that you can write about anything,” said Jimmy, 8.

The program runs through Aug. 23. Plans for the future of the program include more parental involvement, and more interactive activities for the children.

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