The Roundup -

Book Boxes To Encourage Summer Reading


To encourage kids to read during the summer, Westside School librarian Jean Barnhart and 2nd grade teacher Karen Pollari teamed up to create a book box in front of the school where kids can take a book, read it, and return it for another.

Donations have been received from teachers, and kids so the box is well stocked with titles sure to please everyone.

A second box is just waiting for the final touches from Pollari and will be placed at the Boys & Girls Club. One more is in the works with its final destination unknown at this point.

The idea grew out of a meeting with Barnhart and a group of teachers who tackled the problem of how to keep kids reading throughout the summer since reading proficiency can decrease dramatically over the summer vacation. With the encouragement of former principal Loretta Thiel, the idea was hatched to have little libraries around town. The books are free to use, and no library card is required. Plus, they're always open.

The first book box was actually found in the courtyard having served some unknown purpose in the past. Barnhart cleaned and painted it and quickly put it to use. The group wanted the first one to be on the west side of town since there is one on the east side at Central Elementary. The boxes will be out all year long, always encouraging kids to read. Plans call for a bench or lawn chairs as well so that kids can grab a book and read it on the spot.

Westside is also conducting its Wednesday afternoon Rocket Reader program, led by Barnhart and Pollari. Kids can come from 1 to 5 p.m. each Wednesday to read books and magazines, listen to audio books, complete fun projects, play games, practice keyboarding skills, practice reading and math skills with Moby Max, and check out a book. If the child completes all the tasks on the card, they are sent home with a snack and a prize. "We offer a variety of things that are educational and fun and try to follow a theme each week," Barnhart said. They also sneak in some fine motor skill development activities which the kids think are fun. "Everyone wants to complete the menu so they can get a snack and a prize."

Barnhart said 18 or 19 kids, mainly kindergarten and 1st graders, have been attending each week. They would really like to encourage older kids to come as well, to have fun and brush up on their reading and math skills. The program continues July 10, 17 and 24. Parents are welcome to stay with their kids. "It's fun to watch them engage with their own child, or maybe another one, or sit back and encourage the kids as they complete the tasks," Barnhart said.

Some staff changes will be taking place at Westside with Barnhart moving into a 3rd grade teaching position that she is excited about, although she loves being librarian as well. She said she will be happy to support, help and guide whomever is chosen to fill her position. Also coming in is a new principle to replace Thiel who retired this spring.

Barnhart and her fellow teachers are excited about the all-new reading curriculum coming this fall with new books in every class. School will be here before we know it. Help keep your kids reading all summer by taking advantage of the book boxes in Sidney.


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