Sunday, July 10, 2011

Janesville's Jackson Elementary School Teachers Keep Their Students Reading During the Summer

Words on wheels: Janesville teachers bring books to kids. (Janesville Gazette,7/10/2011)

Excerpt: The group targets Jackson kids, but any child who shows up can take books. The kids must return books in order to get new ones, but there’s no effort to register the withdrawals as a regular library would to.

All of the books were donated. About $1,000 worth of new books came from the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation. About $600 in new books came from the Delta Kappa Gamma Society of Janesville, Stengel said. More came from a school book drive and from some teachers’ churches.

“We were just blown away by how many books were donated,” said teacher-volunteer Cheri Appel.

Stengel said he wasn’t sure how teachers would react to the idea of volunteering over the summer after the difficult school year. Teachers became the focus of a statewide political battle and faced the prospect of local layoffs, he noted. But he was pleased at how his colleagues embraced the idea.

The program uses a room at Jackson to store the books, but it’s not a district program. Volunteers bring their cars and pay for gas and the icy sweets they distribute to the young readers.

Stengel said he and fellow Title 1 teacher Kerrie Tisdale were frustrated last year after they worked hard to help kids catch up in reading, only to see the knowledge drain away over the summer.

“They were back at Square One. We had to get them caught up to where they should be because they were not reading all summer,” Stengel said.

Experts say children living in poverty are more likely to lose reading skills over the summer than children who don’t. Jackson serves a high percentage of children in poverty.

The bookmobile tries to combat the summer slide, but the visits also help teachers maintain relationships with the kids and their parents, Stengel said

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