Young readers stay engaged at Woodmoor summer program

  • Written by Don Mann

Northshore School District Superintendent Larry Francois, left, and Northshore Schools Foundation co-President Kristin Austin, right, engage with students at a Summer Open Library (SOL) session at Woodmoor Elementary School on Wednesday. Photo by Don Mann.
The school bus arrived just before one o’clock Wednesday and dozens of children filed through the doors of Woodmoor Elementary School, headed happily to the library.

There they were greeted by a cluster of adult volunteers before breaking into small groups that spread out among the half-dozen reading and writing stations set up around the room.

It was week six of Woodmoor’s Summer Open Library (SOL), where kids who may not have accessible summer reading material have been invited to participate once a week for two hours in a program funded through grants from the Northshore Schools Foundation and the Woodinville Rotary.

"We identified children that could use a jump-start in their reading work and needs, kids who don’t have access to books at home," Woodmoor Principal Angela Kerr said. "Research tells us that kids lose about two months of reading skill in the summer and we’re working real hard to have kids be at standard. When they’re not able to read in the summertime — they don’t have access or someone to get them to the library — they lose ground. The biggest cost we have is the transportation to get kids here, and we didn’t want that to be the factor of kids not coming."

Over 100 Woodmoor students were invited to participate, and about 80 have attended, Kerr said.

The program was spearheaded by Melissa Riley, one of a group of Woodmoor teachers who attended the "Urgency and School Change" conference in March, where the topic of summer reading loss was addressed. Riley hatched the idea of SOL, applied for grants in the spring and got the ball rolling.

"It’s all come together so well because of the work of all these wonderful volunteers," she said, noting teachers, prospective teachers, community members and parents — over 50 in all who’ve contributed at one point or another.

And she gave a shout-out to the folks at Reading with Rover, a community-based literacy program that volunteers its time — and its dogs — at schools, bookstores and libraries throughout the Puget Sound region.

"Volunteers come every week bringing their dogs and the kids love that attraction," Riley said. "Being able to read to the dogs is non- threatening and we have kids here with all kinds of different needs, some that might be a little intimidated by working with an adult they’ve never met before."

It was a bit more crowded on Wednesday than usual, with Northshore School District Superintendent Larry Francois and NSF co-President Kristin Austin in attendance, moving anonymously from station to station to lend an ear and words of encouragement. Also on hand was NSD board member Sandy Hayes, a Woodmoor parent and a regular volunteer. "We’re having a blast and the kids just love it," Hayes said. "We try to create fun activities for them so they’re not feeling like it’s work. It’s really a celebration of learning, making sure that they continue to grow as readers."

Said Francois: " Wonderful program! From the number and enthusiasm of the volunteers to the excitement on the faces of the kids to the Reading with Rover dogs ... what a great opportunity for some of our students most in need of staying engaged over the summer to sustain and build their reading skills. I greatly appreciate the Northshore Schools Foundation and Woodinville Rotary for providing the financial support to make this possible, and the dedication of Melissa Riley to organize and coordinate eight weeks of summer reading activities."

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