Tonganoxie teachers hope youths get on board for reading program
Summer might not be the most likely time for some youths to be reading.
To help combat that, Tonganoxie Elementary School teachers are bringing the books to the students.
The Tonganoxie Elementary School Book Buggy will be making the rounds for the third time today.
TES reading specialists Chris Baska, Reann French and Janet Falk are visiting hot summer spots each Wednesday with a school van filled with books for children to read.
As of last week, the Book Buggy had reached about 75 children.
“We’re reaching a lot of kids,” French said.
That’s crucial this time of year, according to the reading teachers.
National statistics show that students not reading between school years can fall behind by as many as two to three grade levels in reading proficiency by junior high.
Baska said she’s had students who make progress through the course of a school year, but then when that “summer slide” hits and they’re no longer reading, some students have fallen back to the reading level at the previous school year’s start when they return for a new school year in August.
Teachers are stopping at Tonganoxie Water Park at 9 a.m. and then Chieftain Park at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays in June and July. After that stop, they head to various Tonganoxie neighborhoods and then are available from 4-6 p.m. at the Tonganoxie Elementary School library. Students can enter through the northeast entrance near the music room.
Other Tonganoxie teachers have been volunteering their time as well at the pool and the park. The teachers help children pick out the books. They can then bring them back and exchange for another book the next week.
Baska also stressed that youths are encouraged to read whatever interests them — even if it might be easy reading. She said no tells adults not to read something because it’s too easy. The same applies to the children, she said.
The material also should be easy enough for the students that they can read independently, Falk said.
The reading teachers admitted they weren’t sure how many books they had to offer to youths.
Falk said teachers rotate out 12 small crates of books for children to read, each crate filled with books of varying reading levels.
They also noted that it’s preferred that the children bring back the books, but if they don’t all make it back, that’s OK.
“It’s worth it, as long as the kids are reading,” Baska said.
Baska said some books have been donated, while others were purchased through a grant. The Tonganoxie Elementary School Parent Teacher Club also has donated books — and more are welcome.
For instance, The Mirror has a box set up in its front office where people can drop off donated books for the Book Buggy.
The elementary school’s reading teachers also have worked with professors in evaluating students' reading progress and have presented findings at national conferences.
They’re hoping the new summer initiative will pay dividends when students return for the 2014-15 school year.
Falk said teachers are keeping track of which students are picking up books. In May, students did benchmark testing for reading assessment. When students return in August, students will take those tests again. From there, teachers can determine how successful the summer program is.
“We are hoping we will be making a big impact,” Falk said.