Every Tuesday, kids can feel the warmth of the sun and blades of grass between their toes as they sit on the lawn of the Silverdale Waterfront Park for story time.
Story time is provided by the Read Up program, which is offered through the Central Kitsap School District, as a way to get kids excited about reading.
Children and their parents throughout the area are invited by Central Kitsap School District staff members and AmeriCorps volunteers to sit in on the free event at 2 p.m. to listen to volunteers read favorite children’s books. At the end of the reading session, children are allowed to choose one free book and receive a special gift upon departing the program.
Shaina Moser, mother of two, brought her children out to the park and was happy she stumbled upon the event.
Her son, Skyler Bonsell, 10, said he enjoyed the reading time and is a big fan of the Harry Potter series. Bonsell frequently reads to his baby brother at night, Moser said.
“I love that he reads,” she said. “Anytime we go somewhere, I tell him to bring a book.”
Bonsell said he is grateful for the chance to pick out a free book and thinks others are just as appreciative.
“I think that’s really great,” he said. “Not many people can afford books. Some kids haven’t been able to read one before.”
The exposure to literature and new books is exactly the goal of the program, according to Chris Wyatt, Central Kitsap School District director of student services.
“Read Up is (offered) through a federal grant from the Department of Education,” Wyatt said of the program that covers both the CK and Bremerton School Districts.
In addition to the reading program in the park, five schools are offering tutoring reading programs throughout the month of July.
The school programs are mainly funded through state Learning Assistance Program, and funding through Title I and building discretionary funds.
Three of the schools specifically offer the Read Up program two days a week. Eleven volunteers help with the Read Up program between the sites, Wyatt said.
The grant provided more than 3,000 books for the CK School District. At an estimate of around $4 per book, that would have cost the district $12,000, Wyatt said.
The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Kitsap-Olympic Peninsulas applied for the grant for both Kitsap County school districts to host the eight-week program for children.
Patricia Hennessy, president of the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Kitsap-Olympic Peninsulas said that around 9,000 books were given to the program for children throughout the county.
“The idea is just to model good reading behavior,” said Hennessy. “Read-aloud is a great reading behavior. This is sorta geared toward stopping that summer slide. We’re hoping that we are preventing a lot of catching up. It’s really about instill
ng the love of reading books … kids can’t have too many books.”
AmeriCorps volunteer Marty Elm said he enjoys reading aloud to kids, especially in a relaxing setting that’s set along the waterfront.
“I love reading to kids,” he said. “This is the perfect place to do this program. It’s great to give out the free books to them.”
Elm finds joy in seeing children’s parents reading to them with a brand-new book in hand after the reading session.
“It’s great to see the parents getting involved,” he said. “This program is really working.”