Schools, teachers host summer reading programs to bolster student literacy skills
It’s been rainy, but Pleasant Gap Elementary School third-grade teacher Trevor Montgomery found a break in the rain on Aug. 2 to meet outside at the school’s playground with some former students – soon-to-be fourth-graders – for a weekly book club he hosted this year. It’s something he’s done for several years, starting when he was a teacher at Bellefonte Elementary School and bringing it with him to Pleasant Gap.
Montgomery and about 10 students sat under a small pavilion and discussed the book, “The Lemonade War,” which students have been reading this summer. They also drank lemonade during the discussion. This is the second book the students have read this summer during Montgomery’s summer reading program.
The discussion encouraged the students to think outside the box when asked questions about the meaning of the book, lessons one can take away from it and the kinds of things they’d ask author Jacqueline Davies if given the chance. The day ended with a water balloon fight against Pleasant Gap fourth-grade teacher Pam Grimminger and her former students. Grimminger has been holding a similar book study with soon-to-be fifth-grade students.
And like Grimminger and Montgomery, other teachers in the Bellefonte Area School District have been hosting programs to promote student reading during the summer. School libraries also have extended hours through Aug. 16 for students and families to come in and work on Makerspace kits and summer reading initiatives where they can take Reading Counts quizzes, check out books and spend time reading in the library.
“Just like you have to practice to get better at sports, kids need lots of practice reading to get better at reading,” Benner Elementary School first-grade teacher Kacie Montgomery said. “Students, who don't read over the summer, tend to lose literacy skills. Students, who do read over the summer, tend to improve their literacy skills. A lot of teachers reference the ‘summer slide,’ meaning that kids slide backwards or regress over the summer because they are not practicing skills.”
Kacie Montgomery and fellow Benner Elementary first-grade teacher Jamie Beard held a reading program this summer with some former students, going into second grade. They have been posting questions on a mobile application called, Seesaw, where the students can respond to the questions in a voice comment, video, picture or text. So far, the about 15 student participants read “The Littles” and “The Chocolate Touch.”
“Since they are first-graders, their parents often read the book with them and help them form their responses,” Kacie Montgomery said. “We really wanted to incorporate families reading together, as well as students responding and interacting with each other over the summer.”