Alexa Neton, 9, center, talks with a friend Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Park while her brother, Patrick, 4, reads with Emma Jones, 8. They were among about 75 elementary school students who attended “Light Your Fire for Reading," the first of three activities to encourage children to read during the summer.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Alexa Neton, 9, center, talks with a friend Tuesday at Veterans Memorial Park while her brother, Patrick, 4, reads with Emma Jones, 8. They were among about 75 elementary school students who attended “Light Your Fire for Reading," the first of three activities to encourage children to read during the summer.

Summer series encourages children to read while school is out

photo

Firefighter Matthew Walker, of Craig/Fire Rescue, reads to a group of children Tuesday in Veterans Memorial Park as part of “Light Your Fire for Reading,” an event designed to encourage children to read during the summer. Other reading events take place at 5 p.m. July 10 at the Craig Swimming Complex, 605 Washington St., and from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, 2801 W. Ninth St.

If you go ...

What: “Catch the Reading Wave”

When: 5 p.m. July 10

Where: Craig Swimming Complex, 605 Washington St.

Cost: Students who bring the books they received through the 13-3 Book Project enter free; adults and older children pay $2

— The event includes a read-aloud with Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz, a book exchange and snacks. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

If you go ...

What: “Reading Takes You Higher”

When: 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14

Where: Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, 2801 W. Ninth St.

Cost: Free

—Children are encouraged to bring the books they received through the 13-3 Book Project.

Quotable

“That’s really the key to being a successful reader is just practicing your reading every day, like practicing swimming or practicing running or practicing golfing. You’ve got to just read.”

— Sarah Hepworth, East Elementary School principal, about the purpose behind reading activities scheduled this summer in Craig

In one respect, reading isn’t unlike sports.

Excelling at either activity takes practice, said Sarah Hepworth, East Elementary School principal.

“That’s really the key to being a successful reader is just practicing your reading every day, like practicing swimming or practicing running or practicing golfing,” she said. “You’ve got to just read.”

She and other elementary school principals, as well as Moffat County School District literacy coordinators, are introducing a new summer reading program this year to sharpen elementary school students’ reading skills.

“Light Your Fire for Reading,” the first of three activities in the program, drew about 75 children Tuesday to Veterans Memorial Park.

The event kicked off with a read-aloud with Craig Fire/Rescue Chief Bill Johnston and firefighter Matthew Walker.

Students then read on their own for 20 minutes before getting a chance to inspect a fire truck brought on site for the occasion.

Similar activities are scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. July 10 at Craig Swimming Complex, 605 Washington St., and from 1 to 4 p.m. Aug. 14 at Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Craig campus, 2801 W. Ninth St. Students can exchange the volumes they’ve read for new books at the events, and students who attend all three activities will receive a prize at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

Elementary school principals and literacy coordinators crafted the summer reading program to dovetail with the 13-3 Book Project, a Friends of Moffat County Education initiative to collect or purchase 13,000 books this spring for children in preschool through fifth grade.

Michele Chalmers, Friends of Moffat County Education member, attended Tuesday’s activities with three of her four sons.

“It was nice to see everyone actually grab a book and sit down and read for the 20 minutes,” considering that “sometimes it’s very hard to get kids to sit, especially in the summer,” she said.

The school district’s summer reading events and the 13-3 Book Project are grounded in a three-year study conducted by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty that shows students’ reading skills decline significantly if they don’t hit the books during the summer.

Eventually, lost reading time adds up to what researchers call “the summer slide.”

“What we know is that children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency,” said Richard Allington, one of the study’s researchers, in the college’s newsletter, Tennessee Today.

“This creates a three- to four-month gap every year. Every two or three years, the kids who don’t read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do.”

Hepworth’s experience agrees with the study’s findings.

When the school year begins, teachers can “definitely” notice when students haven’t read over the summer, she said.

Chalmers is glad to see the school district building on the 13-3 Book Project.

“It’s been wonderful just how everyone has come together” to encourage summer reading, she said.

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