One hundred and thirty First Grade students at Bonne Ecole Elementary School in Slidell cheered with delight as the first ever distribution of summer reading books took place Friday afternoon May 18. The event implemented the "12 Books" Summer Reading Program at the school, and it proved to be an immediate success with 1560 books distributed
Principal Dr. April Owens thought the event was a perfect way to end the school year. “Our first grade students are getting books to take home and read for the summer, and by doing so will help develop their reading skills and promote literacy during their vacation time,” she stated.
Each student received 12 free books. They had chosen the books for themselves back in February with the help of volunteer students from the Slidell High School Teaching Academy. The books came in this week and were handed out in a special ceremony attended by the several parent volunteers, Teaching Academy volunteers, and celebrity readers who were part of the event earlier in the year.
Dr. Owens said the progress the children make improving their reading skills will be monitored so they can keep track of the program’s success. The project will be repeated next year, for the same group of kids as they enter second grade, and also for the incoming first grade students.
The "12 Books" Reading Program was an idea brought to the school by parent Jenny Helber who had participated in the event in Florida. She helped emcee the Bonne Ecole distribtution ceremony, thanking the committee, the volunteers, the sponsors and the celebrity readers who made it all possible.
The book themselves are provided by First Book.Org, a non-profit organization out of Washington, D.C., which arranges with children’s book publishers to provide the new books at a discounted rate to the 12 Books program. Several community sponsors donated funds to purchase the books. They included Exxon, Target, the School's PTA, Textron Land and Marine Systems, Slidell Lioness Club, and the Slidell Women's Civic Club.
Kellie Ainsworth, Assistant Principal, said the program has proven itself effective in helping children maintain and even improve their reading skills over the summer.
By selecting the books themselves, the students were really motivated to read the books. During the ceremony they even took a pledge to keep on reading over the summer. “The research we did on the project said it was quite effective with emerging readers, so we decided to go with our first grade,” Ms. Ainsworth explained.
The books offer a variety of reading levels, all appropriate for first graders, and include fiction, non-fiction, and something to appeal to every student, Principal Owens noted. “We gave the list of available books to two of our first grade teachers, and they selected the best books to match our curriculum,” she said.
Ms. Helber said the 12 Books program began as a result of a study made by the University of Tennessee that showed that by pairing up children with self-selected books for summer reading, their reading scores actually improved over those three months instead of slightly declining.
Plus, there’s the anticipation factor. “The kids are really excited about the idea,” she said. “They knew that the books were coming this week, and they couldn’t wait to get them.”
“The books are specially written to help enhance the kids’ reading skills and keep them interested so they return to school in the fall even better readers,” Ms. Helber commented. Giving free books to kids also means a lot to those children who may not get many books of their own, she noted.
The Teaching Academy students from Slidell High School were also just as excited to see the books come in for the youngsters they had met with in February. “Some of the high school kids have come back for our distribution ceremony even though they graduated last week and this is their summer time,” she stated.
For photographs of the event, click here.
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