Reading is heating up at elementary schools

Area schools initiate recreational reading programs this month.

By: Joseph Harvie
   Winter chills have made outdoors fun mostly a bundled up chore this season, leaving children huddled inside their heated homes to escape the blustery winter blues.
   Most Monroe and Jamesburg elementary schools have made it easier to handle the chilled weather by initiating programs to increase students’ reading time at home during February.
   Monroe’s Barclay Brook and Woodland Schools are involved with the Read to Succeed Six Hour Reading Club sponsored by Six Flags theme parks and Weekly Reader Corp., a publisher of classroom periodicals.
   Jamesburg’s JFK School has been holding a Reading Rally this month, where students log their reading time to meet personal and class goals. The school also has events coordinated with the rally.
   Through Monroe’s involvement in the Six Flags Reading Club program, students who do six hours of reading will receive a free day admission to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson. The children can read anything from books, to comics, to magazines as long as it is not schoolwork. They log the hours they read on a sheet and their parents must sign off.
   "We’ve been involved with the program for about three or four years," Woodland Principal Victor Soriano said. "It is a worthwhile program, it is another way to get children to read something other than what they have to do for school."
   Brookside students have until Feb. 17 to complete the six hours and Woodland students have until Feb. 23.
   Several fourth-grade students at Brookside have already completed the six hours and have gone above their goal, Media Coordinator Barbara Shapiro said.
   "I tell them ‘you’re reading anyway, don’t take it like you only have to fulfill the six hours, keep reading,’ " Ms. Shapiro said. "Most of the students find that they are not reading for the program anyway, they are reading for pleasure."
   Brookside also is offering its own incentive for children to achieve six hours of recreational reading. Students who complete the task will be able to take out an extra book from the library, Ms. Shapiro said.
   In Jamesburg, JFK is holding a Reading Rally this month, a program that also encourages children to read recreationally.
   "The Reading Rally runs the entire month of February. Every Friday a slip of paper goes home with a student and the paper is used the following week to record how long the students read at home," said JFK Principal Al Perno. "They turn the slips in the following week and see if they met their goals."
   There are two types of goals for the students to meet. The first is their personal goals and the other is the classroom goals, Mr. Perno said. The personal goals are the amount of time a student reads every night, and the classroom goals are the total amount of time an entire class reads in a week.
   "The goals are set by grade level, a kindergartner’s goal is to read 15 minutes a night for five nights and the time goes up to fifth-graders, where they read 40 minutes a night," Mr. Perno said.
   JFK also is holding events to go along with the Reading Rally. On Wednesday, teachers read stories to children at Milk and Cookies Night at the School, Mr. Perno said.
   The children were urged to wear something comfortable, such as pajamas, and were treated to milk, cookies and stories. Students also were given time to read alone. More than 100 students signed up for the evening, Mr. Perno said.
   Another event will honor what would have been children’s author Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2.
   "On March 2 we are encouraging students to wear red, white and black in honor of Dr. Seuss, and we are going to have community volunteers read stories to different classes." Mr. Perno said. "We asked members of the school board, town council and well known people in the town to come and read to the children."
   Mr. Perno wanted to thank Vice Principal Wendy Ogaard, fourth-grade teacher Ann Marie Chichalski, fifth-grade teacher Robert Graber and Spanish teacher Jean Leonard for their hard work putting these events together and the students for their enthusiasm.
   "The children are really into it," Mr. Perno said. "Almost everybody in the school has participated."