Summer reading challenge begins for students

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Local schools, library encourage children to keep reading, offer incentives

With summer quickly approaching, students in Barry County do not need to worry about sliding off the reading bandwagon this summer.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced its "Stop Summer Slide with "Read More, Missouri!" Reading Challenge to help Missouri students keep their reading skills sharp over the summer months while they are out of school.

"Summer slide," is a term coined by DESE for the loss of learning skills that many students experience during their summer break from classes.

Cassville Primary School Principal Catherine Weaver wholeheartedly supports summer reading.

"We are a big proponent of summer reading," she said. "Summer reading not only reinforces skills students have already learned and practiced but helps keep those skills sharp when they don't have that consistent exposure like they do during the year.

"It helps with fluency, recall, comprehension and those types of things. When see on a regular basis, when kids don't read and if they haven't been practicing those skills over the summer."

Weaver said one of the best resources for parents to find reading sources over the summer is the public library.

"Our librarian has been talking up summer reading with our students, encouraging them to get a library card and letting them know it's free," she said. "We also push summer school because that's an additional time they can be exposed to the reading and writing so we do that as well."

"Even though it is hard during the summer months, it is so important to encourage children to read," said Shelley Sparkman, LCSW, Cassville Intermediate School counselor. "The old phrase, 'If you don't use it, you lose it,' really applies in this situation.

"When children fall out of the habit of reading, it is even harder to catch back up when school starts. Parents can truly help encourage children to find enjoyment through reading."

Another way parents can help their children to stay on top of reading during the summer is to model it by reading themselves.

"Children are more likely to read when they see the adults around them reading as well," Sparkman said.

Miranda Cupit, Cassville Intermediate teacher, also supports continued reading during the summer months.

"The words spoken by Dr. Seuss are very true," she said. "'The more you read, the more things you know, the more that you learn, the more places you'll go.' This summer, go lots of places in your reading."

"It's very important that kids read over the summer," said Dawna Snell, Title 1 Reading Coach at Exeter Elementary. "It seems like they always lose a little bit over the summer."

To help encourage summer reading, Snell said they are sending elementary children home after school ends with a summer reading challenge. The challenge includes reading five books over the summer. When school starts up again, if they have read the books and bring the list back to their new teacher, Principal Tim Jordan has agreed to do something "wild and crazy" for the kids.

"We have a 600-book goal school-wide," Snell said. "Last year, our top three readers got to put whipped cream pie in the principal's face as a reward."

The Cassville branch of the Barry-Lawrence County Regional Library also supports summer reading and is a great resource and motivator for children to keep up their reading.

"We have a free summer reading program, with incentives, to encourage kids to keep reading over the summer," said Verna Fry, in youth services at the library.

"Our theme is 'Every Hero Has a Story,'" Fry said. "The children come in and register, then we'll give them a super hero cut out figure. For every increment of five books they read, which can be a book they read or audio book they listen to, they get to put a sticker on their super hero on the wall.

"When summer is over, they get to take their super hero home with them."

Fry said each increment of five items read qualifies participants for a small prize and the opportunity to put their name into a drawing for a grand prize, a Kindle Fire e-Reader, which will be given later this summer. Prizes will vary based on age category. Fry said there will be a total of six e-Readers awarded. One child, one teen and one adult from Barry county will be awarded one; and one child, one teen and one adult from Lawrence county, for a total of six winners. Age categories are: child, zero to 12; teen, 13-18; and adult, 18 and over.

Registration for the summer reading program begins Thursday, the day Cassville schools dismiss for summer. A fun event to kickoff the summer reading program will be held May 28 at 3:30 p.m. at the library. The program is called "Oh My Gosh, Josh, the Amazing Adventures of Super Chicken."

The same program will also be held at the Eagle Rock branch library at 10 a.m. on the same day, and at the Shell Knob branch at 1:30 p.m. Fry said the library will have events every week through June and July on Thursdays, and also a teen program on Tuesday afternoons.

Fry has had plenty of experience helping and encouraging children to read.

"As a retired elementary school teacher, I think reading is always important," she said. "My mantra was that you learn to read so you can read to learn. You continue reading for enjoyment but it also has the effect of keeping your skills sharp and you learn new things, new interests, and are more ready to begin school in the fall."

Fry said one of the event this summer will include a visit from Dickerson Park Zoo animals.

"When a child comes to an event like that, they might then want to get a book on one of the animals they learned about to read, or on a topic they learned about," she said. "It's something interesting and fun for the kids."

Fry said it's also easy to sign up.

"Stop by the library and we'll get them signed up, registered, get their reading log and super hero," she said.

According to DESE, experts say that reading just six books during the summer can keep students from regressing and having to catch up once school begins again in the fall. DESE encourages parents to read aloud to their children and to have their kids read something every day. The goal is to engage children with reading lots of different kinds of books and reading materials, including magazines, short articles and even websites.

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