"Without support and funding from Harvest, we would be unable to develop, promote and sustain initiatives to address health issues and work toward a healthier future for Martinsville and Henry County. "
- Barbara Jackman, Executive Director - MHC Coalition for Health and Wellness
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Book giveaways encourage kids to read outside school

May 23, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

Every kindergarten student in the Henry County Schools will receive a free book this month as part of the division’s ongoing effort to promote literacy and leisure reading.

Literacy is “a core staple of our instructional programming,” said Henry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Jackson.

School officials began giving free hardback books to the county’s kindergartners last week. The system received the books from First Book, a nonprofit organization that distributes books to schools around the United States and Canada, said Melany Stowe, school spokesman.

The school system had to apply for the books and explain how it would use them to promote reading. It received 1,500 books from First Book, varying in subject and reading level.

For now, school personnel have decided to distribute 600 of the books to kindergartners. The remaining books will be given out during summer camps, summer school and on a class-by-class basis, Stowe said.

The books that the kindergartners are receiving are called “Jack’s Talent” and “Have you ever seen a sneep?” They retail for about $20, so it is “really exciting” to be able to give them to the children, Stowe said.

Jackson will be reading the books to kindergarten reading groups throughout May.

"We do reading every day. The kids have to be able to read and compute,” he said. “Our goal is to get them to higher levels.”

The books are being given to the students before summer break because it is important for the children to “stay active as young readers over the summer because they are developing the skills,” he said. “We are trying to kick off leisure reading because that’s the time we can’t control.”

Jackson said school officials hope that by giving the students at least one book it will spark parents to promote reading to their children as well. “(Reading should) become part of the fabric of not only the schools, but the community and the homes,” he said.

Reading already is deeply rooted into the curriculum of the school system. Sherri Lewis, principal at Mt. Olivet Elementary School, said Mt. Olivet, like each of the county’s 10 elementary schools, has a reading team that helps students enhance and develop their skills. The team is in charge of reading groups.

Kindergarten through second-grade reading groups meet for one hour every day, and the third through fifth grade groups meet for 90 minutes, Lewis said.

Mt. Olivet has one reading specialist, three instructional assistants and two PALS (Peer Assisted Learning) tutors on the reading team. Each school has a different number of people in the team depending on the size of the school, Lewis said.

The team monitors students as well. Team members are in charge of having one-on-one readings every five days in which students read to team members. They also do assessments of each child every few days, and if a child isn’t succeeding in one reading group, the team may decide to move the child to another group, Lewis said.

Between the team and the teachers, there is a lot of monitoring and feedback, she said.

The reading teams and assessments were introduced into the school system about 10 years ago.

Lewis said she has noticed a lot of improvement in the state Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores since then.

“Nothing happens in the other subject areas if kids can’t read,” Jackson said.

“I read a lot,” said Michelle Zheng, a kindergartner at Mt. Olivet. “(I like to read) to figure out what happens.”

Michelle said she began reading last year.

“I read about one or two times a day,” said Mt. Olivet kindergartner Grant Mayes. He said he likes to read joke books and SpongeBob books.

“Reading is important,” Jackson said. “We want our students to be happy about reading and comfortable reading.”




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