Reading specialists Kathryn Mullen, M.Ed. and Sue Megas-Russell, M.Ed. are the onsite coordinators for 2013-2014’s CLiF Year of the Book at Cutler Elementary School in West Swanzey, NH. Over this school year Kathryn and Sue will take turns guest blogging for CLiF. Their posts will provide insight into the creativity, attention, and heart that goes into their everyday literacy work. – CLiF Staff
One of the most enjoyable responsibilities for a Reading Specialist is to instill the love of literacy in her students. This is a task my partner, Sue Megas-Russell, and I hold dear to our hearts.
At the end of the 2012-13 school year we decided to send bags of books from our reading room collection home with students for summer reading. During our final comprehension assessments of the year we had asked students what summer reading plans they had. Numerous students said they did not have many or even any books at home. Other students had books at home, but had a hard time choosing what to read. We realized for some students it is simply about the right book being placed into their hands. Great conversations ensued with these students about interests, other authors or books they may have enjoyed, and favorite genres. Sue and I selected books tailored for each child, placed them in large plastic bags, and delivered the bags to students to take home for the summer.
During recess on the first day of school, I asked one of my students, Cammie, about her summer book bag. She had admitted to me the previous school year that she often did not finish books because she did not connect with them. Cammie said she had read only two books in her bag. Initially I was a little disappointed, but I did not let this show. I congratulated her on reading two books and asked which ones she had read.
The first she told me about was Lemonade Wars, which had been assigned to all incoming 6th graders. She liked it fine but then her face lit up when she told me about the second book. “Mrs. Mullen, the other one was If Wishes Were Horses by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and I loved it. It was so good!” Her enthusiasm was contagious and I saw a hook for further reading. I told Cammie that we had other titles by the same author (who is also a CLiF presenter) and she should stop by my room so I could loan her some more.
When I saw her the next Monday Cammie rushed over and earnestly told me, “I’m making up for only reading two books during the summer, Mrs. Mullen. I read three books this weekend! I was able to get two more Natalie Kinsey-Warnock books from the library. I finished those and read another book I already had.” Cammie’s friend Marian was with her and she shared that Cammie had imparted her love of Kinsey-Warnock books with her. Now they both were avidly reading them.
Not every bag of books Sue and I sent home resulted in this experience, but this highlight made us pleased that we had created the opportunity. Cammie has read all the Natalie Kinsey-Warnock books we have, so we’ll need to make an order to keep up with her. Cammie also discovered that she enjoys books with an element of sadness to them. This information helps her to understand herself better as a reader thus enabling her to make better choices. This is priceless. As our school begins CLiF’s Year of the Book we are so excited to bring these opportunities to all our students.