Killingly students take advantage of summer reading challenge

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., Sep. 23, 2013
Samantha Goulston holds a plaque recognizing her summer reading. Photo by D. Coffey.
Samantha Goulston holds a plaque recognizing her summer reading. Photo by D. Coffey.

With the help of three programs, Killingly elementary school students read a total of 3,726 books this summer. That number is music to Carol Records’ ears. She is the librarian for the two elementary schools in town. “There are so many opportunities for literacy enrichment for Killingly students,” Records said.

The schools always participate in the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge, a state initiative designed to keep kids reading throughout the summer. Killingly Public Library sponsored a “Ready for the Grade Remarkable Readers Club,” for students who might need extra help with reading over the summer. And the school district was able to institute a Summer Literacy Academy, providing intensive reading instruction to 30 students over the course of four weeks.

The SLA was put together with money from an Alliance Grant from the state. Kindergarten and first-grade students were chosen based on their Developmental Reading Assessment scores and teacher recommendations. Teams of teachers and instructional assistants focused on each child’s reading needs. Students read fiction and non-fiction books on a variety of topics.

The program also provided hands-on art and technology integration, according to Program Coordinator Heidi Davis. She brought in representatives from Mystic Aquarium, the Rhode Island House of Reptiles, and The Last Green Valley to provide students what she called outstanding opportunities for real-world experiences.

Beyond providing intensive reading instruction, the program was designed to foster a love of books and reading. That was the same goal of the Remarkable Readers Club. The Killingly Public Library Children’s Department offered weekly sessions at four different locations to any child entering first through third grade. The two-hour sessions included reading activities, literacy games, learning about the library, tutoring help, free books and prizes for continued reading.

First-grader Jack Archambault read 70 books for the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge. He had an important ally on his side: his mother. She read to and with Jack over the course of his reading marathon. Parental participation is instrumental in motivating kids to read. Kids read more when parents are involved, and reading skills build fluency, vocabulary and confidence. “It’s huge,” Records said. 

Parent Laurie Goulston found a nifty way to encourage her daughter, Samantha, to read over the summer. She arranged for a flag to be flown over the Capitol in recognition of the fourth-grader’s summertime reading. Samantha read 50 books totaling 7,021 pages.

Reading lists submitted to Records by the elementary school teachers were impressive. More than 200 students participated in the summer programs. And while Archambault and Goulston were at the top of the list, they weren’t alone. Students read anywhere from a few books to 30 and 40. Records cautioned that book numbers didn’t always reflect the effort involved. A book of 100 pages counts the same as a book of 10 pages. What mattered most was that so many students took on the summer reading challenge. That translates into future reading and school success, Records said.

The librarian clearly believes in the power books have to inspire and enlighten young students. “There’s an enthusiasm in this building,” Records said. “Kids are reading because they love it. The Internet is great, but there’s nothing like a book. You can call me old-fashioned, but I see the excitement at check-out time. Their eyes pop. There’s a passion and it’s beautiful.”

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