TRC Read to Kids

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

We Are Readers Summer 2015

We Are Readers successfully concluded its summer programming at the end of July, and it proved to be an exciting six weeks! Each summer, The Reading Connection (TRC) operates the We Are Readers program, with two Read-Alouds per week instead of one, as a way to ensure continued learning when school is out. All kids are at risk of losing reading skills over the summer, but at-risk kids often experience bigger losses. With double the number of Read-Alouds per week as during the school year, TRC's We Are Readers program provides a fun and enriching six weeks designed to keep kids learning and reading for fun over the summer.

Here’s a snapshot of our success.

Introducing We Are Readers kits!

One of the new elements of the program this year was We Are Readers kits. Since one of the weekly Read-Alouds at each site was conducted by new volunteers, TRC planned these Read-Alouds, providing the theme and supplies. The new volunteer teams received kits packed full of books, an interactive activity related to the week’s theme and a snack so that they could hit the ground running. 

An example of the camping kit is shown below. And check out one of the kids making shadow puppets, per the kit's directions, for the first time ever!

The other We Are Readers kits provided to volunteers were on the themes of dinosaurs, nocturnal animals, the beach, airplanes and building.

Welcoming new volunteers

For the first time, TRC recruited teams of new volunteers to conduct the additional Read-Alouds at each site. These new volunteers enthusiastically dove in to make We Are Readers a huge success. Forty new volunteers joined us for We Are Readers and 13 year-round volunteers participated in the program. Also, 98 year-round volunteers attended regular Read-Alouds during these six weeks at the program sites.

Infusing a beach feel for the summer

The theme of We Are Readers this summer was the beach. The kids got to add festive paper shapes like dolphins and seahorses on a giant poster of the beach (shown to the right) to track their attendance. This incentive to get kids to participate was backed by prizes whenever the group reached a goal. Prizes included Popsicles, toys, pencils and cookies. 

As always, each kid could choose a book to keep at the end of each Read-Aloud, which meant that participating kids got two books per week over the summer instead of one. Throughout the summer, we gave away over 550 books!

We Are Readers also provided bingo cards that the kids could mark after accomplishing different activities, like reading instead of watching TV or reading with a friend. When they got bingo, the kids got to put an extra shape on the poster, moving the group toward the next goal and prize.

Including special guests at sites

To ramp up fun and excitement, we brought special guests to the We Are Readers sites. Because TRC’s program structure focuses heavily on increasing background knowledge as a means of building vocabulary and comprehension, these special guests were the perfect addition to the program, bringing knowledge of their occupations or hobbies. Check out the summer’s special guests:

ALIVE House! was visited by Alexandria City Firefighters

ARHA had the pleasure of welcoming Blues musician Chet Chandler to perform and introduce the kids to the Blues. Also, Alexandria police officers taught the kids about life in the police force.

Paws To Read, an Arlington Country Library program that allows kids to read to the non-judgmental audience of a dog, visited Columbia Grove. Reading to dogs in a fun and safe environment empowers and excites kids, which was certainly the case at Columbia Grove!

At Greentree Shelter, the kids got a fun treat — an inside peek into what it's like to be a zookeeper at the National Zoo. Becky Malinsky (pictured below) taught the kids about taking care of the animals and what her experience has been like as a National Zoo zookeeper. The kids even got to try preparing and eating food that she gives to the animals!

Sullivan House was also visited by Paws To Read. The kids all enjoyed reading to the dogs in small groups. The kids also got to take a field trip to Arlington County Fire Station 4. While there, they got a tour of the station and the fire trucks, and the firefighters spoke with them about fire safety and life as a firefighter. The kids were very enthusiastic about this visit, including the books that the firefighters read to them, pictured below.

More Read-Alouds with a variety of themes

In addition to the weekly Read-Alouds conducted by new volunteers using the We Are Readers kits, seasoned TRC volunteers continued to conduct Read-Alouds at every We Are Readers site, giving kids the opportunity to attend two TRC days per week! The regular Read-Aloud volunteers prepared their own themes. The topics they covered this summer included:

  • ALIVE! House: Fish, Fourth of July, Fireflies, Imagination, Exploring
  • ARHA Ruby Tucker Center: Poetry, The Blues, The Future, Deserts, Birthdays
  • Columbia Grove: Bees and Honey, Dr. Seuss, Bugs, Weather, Paws to Read, Picnics
  • Greentree Shelter: Birds, Dogs, Zoos, Telling Time, Games and Sports
  • Sullivan House: Trains, Paws to Read, Sharks, Flying, Firefighters

Throughout the course of We Are Readers, the kids displayed enthusiasm and motivation. In addition to all the extra time spent reading and the increased book ownership, we consider the kids' excitement to be one of the program's biggest successes!

This post was written by Rachel Fishman, TRC's AmeriCorps VISTA dedicated to the We Are Readers Program.

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