WILKES-BARRE — Kinsey Harris, a third-grader at Kistler Elementary School, read 20 books during her summer vacation even though she was required to read only 10. Harris was one of the participants in a new summer reading program sponsored by the United Way of Wyoming Valley and the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.
The purpose of the initiative is to keep students reading and to avoid the “summer slide” — a time when students slide backward on the learning curve due to not being in school for a long period of time.
“Children are at risk of losing some of the knowledge they have gained throughout the school year during the summertime if they don’t continue to stay engaged in learning activities and reading,” said the United Way’s Jennifer Deemer. The summer reading program was Deemer’s brainchild, and she said it’s all part of a larger campaign focused on grade-level reading for young students.
One of the main goals is to ensure that students are reading at grade level by the end of third grade.“It’s really a critical time in a student’s career, because children up until grade three are learning how to read,” Deemer said. “They need to read to learn.”
The United Way also provided parents with educational materials containing ideas on how to keep children learning throughout the summer.
Seventy Kistler students in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade participated in the program and were treated to an ice cream party Tuesday hosted by the United Way.
“I think this a good reward for kids to read, because it encourages kids to read more, because they think that they are going to get something in return,” said third-grader Harris.
Margo Serafini, principal of Kistler, believes the program has made “a tremendous difference” in students’ reading skills after starting school again in the fall. She definitely wants to continue the program in the future.
“I’m sure year after year this will grow, and I think this is a great turnout for the first year,” Serafini said.
Summer reading proved to be beneficial for younger students who are just starting school for the first time as well. Several of Lauren Medvec’s pre-kindergarten students reaped the benefits. “It exposes them to having somebody at home read to them especially before they’re going to school,”she said.
Given the success of the summer reading initiative at Kistler, Deemer said the United Way may expand it to other schools.