Okay, maybe I am sentimental, especially since I'm approaching another birthday soon. Or perhaps it is because of the recent 4th of July holiday celebrating the incredible sacrifices of many extraordinary men and women on our behalf, or maybe it is because of the issues I have been studying for the past year in my doctorate program that has made me keenly aware of the phenomenal country that I live. Perhaps it is a mixture.
Whatever reason, I am incredibly proud of the Sizzlin' Summer Reading program that our school does each summer in our local community park near our school (Paragon Mills Elementary). Every Tuesday morning, we have a parade of children that come down the road on bikes, or on foot with parents in toe, to read for 1.5 hours with volunteers from our school and community. We spread blankets in the shade on the ground, children sign in and then go to their respective reading groups to share stories, speak English, read, and even sing. During this time of informal learning, reading stories is being modeled for parents as they also participate or watch.
After small groups, children enjoy a refreshing snack to beat off the heat, and then make a choice to which read aloud they will choose as a "story teller" reads an exciting story to a heterogeneous group of children as they listen and laugh. Normally the students range from 1 to 13 years of age. After our group read, we give out "door prizes," and all children then receive books to take home for attending. After all is said and done and the park is always cleaner than we find it, most parents take their little ones over to the playground to play before returning home. The entire morning has been enjoyable for all that participate.
Why did we create this program? Many of our families attending our school would be considered at-risk; low-income, poor family literacy skills, lack of literacy material in homes, non-English backgrounds, and some are refugees. It is common for our children to make significant growth throughout the school year and then spend the summer speaking only their "home" language and spend little to no time reading. With Sizzlin' Summer Reading, we can see and hear our children speaking English and reading. They are actively engaged in the reading contest and spend hours reading at home to "earn time" for Nashville Public Library's Incentive to Read Program.
In the midst of criticism in public education concerning teacher tenure, NCLB policy, governmental cuts, Race to the Top, and making AYP…just to name a few; there is another heated discussion going on. It’s Sizzlin' Summer Reading. And the “heated discussion” is in a hot neighborhood park where children are actively engaged in literacy. A reminder of "best practice," "equity for all students," “engaged learning,” and “collaborative learning” with parents, teachers, community, and students partnering together. Sizzlin’ Summer Reading in the Park – is a reminder of what is right in education: teachers going above and beyond their duties to help children learn, students actively engaged and excited about learning, community partnership, and involved parents! Our last Sizzlin’ Summer Reading is July 12th. Grab a blanket and your favorite book and join us! Literacy is always worth celebrating!
Submitted by Mary Holland