How Schools Can Make Reading Fun
School's aim: Make reading fun
On parent-teacher conference day at Stuart Middle School last week, you might have expected to see some parents in distress. Not Richard and Robin Raymond. Two of their five children attend Stuart, but they're doing fine in class.
It's their insatiable reading habit that brought all seven of the Raymond family to the school, at 4601 Valley Station Road, on a day when class was out.
The Raymond family came for A Tournament of Reading, a literacy event tied to parent-teacher conference day that included a book fair and contests in which winners received books as prizes.
"Our living room is filled with bookshelves, and they're all crammed full of books," Robin Raymond said. "The hardest thing we have is to get them to put their books down and do homework."
"Or chores," Richard Raymond added.
The book fair continued all week and helped raise money for hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast. During the one-day Tournament of Reading, students and parents browsed books available for purchase, signed up for library cards and competed in a book walk, which works just like a cake walk except participants play for books. Students also were encouraged to dress as their favorite character from a fantasy book.
Some parents popped into the library just to sit and scan the newspaper after their meetings with teachers.
The school's library/media specialist, Heather Waters, started the literacy events last year in conjunction with Jefferson County Public Schools' parent-teacher conferences. She said that since parents already are in the building, it seemed a good time to stress the importance of reading -- and that it's fun.
Last week's event celebrated fantasy literature, taking advantage of the continued fervor over the "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling, "The Chronicles of Narnia" by C.S. Lewis and "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini, who was a teen when he wrote it.
Such best-selling works have prompted children to read more in their leisure, said Valerie Rueger, the school's reading specialist.
"We're just kind of riding on that wave," she said.
Reading gets a big focus at the school, which was named after famed Kentucky author Jesse Stuart. It was students' highest score on the CATS assessment last spring, at 75.3 on a scale of 140. Stuart has gradually improved its reading score, which was 57.7 in 2000. A score of 100 is considered proficient.
The school has a program called Read 180 for students who are reading below their grade levels.
Eighth-grader Krystal Worthington said the program turned her reading skills around. As a sixth-grader, she said, she read too fast and didn't understand what she had just read, until she enrolled in Read 180.
"Ever since, my reading scores have gone up and up," Krystal said, adding she now reads everything she can get her hands on.
Rueger said up to 60 students show up at 7:10 a.m., before their first classes, for a book club.
"And if I'm late, heaven help me," Rueger said.
As many as 400 students and parents typically come to Stuart's literacy events, and teacher Shonte Davis said they seem to help participation in parent-teacher conferences.
"It's a great opportunity for parents and teachers and students to come together for a common cause -- to stress the importance of reading," Davis said.
Education is something you get when your father sends you to school & college, but it isn't complete until you send your own son.