Woodlands Elementary kicks off summer reading program

The summer reading program at Woodlands Elementary School in Bremerton began with a really great crazy idea.

The summer reading program at Woodlands Elementary School in Bremerton began with a really great crazy idea.

That idea took seed three years ago during a conversation between school librarian and teacher, Elizabeth Roberts, and the school’s Principal, Jeff McCormick.

Roberts and McCormick discussed what is known as the “summer slide” in young readers, a term used by educators to define a loss of reading ability between last day of a school year  and the first day of the next.

Roberts said she went home and was unable to get the conversation out of her mind.

“I went home wondering what I could do,” she said. “And then I had a really great crazy idea.”

The idea was to open the school library to young people during the summer. That year, Roberts and a group of volunteers from the school did just that and the program was born and continues to grow.

The first year, Roberts said 200 young people came to the program at the library, the second year she had almost 500.

This year, Roberts is expecting at least as many and perhaps more.

She said there are many reasons students take advantage of the program. Among them are games, painting and other crafts and computer access to fun learning material.

Students also engage in other creative activities such as making book bags out of t-shirts, and this year Roberts said she will work with young people to create their own books.

“Kids just love to make stuff,” she said.

And of course there will be reading. Roberts said the program offers young people a chance to read, to be read to and to be able to take books home from the library during the summer.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends summer reading programs and research shows that students who engage in such programs may actually gain competency during summer months.

Roberts said she had applied for a Target Early learning grant and the retailer had awarded her    $2,000.

She said these funds would make it possible to continue and increase activities for the program.

“We will be able to give children books to keep,” she said.

The program is also one that parents enjoy. Roberts said parents visit with their children and work large puzzles and play games and this created a positive family dynamic around reading and learning in general for families and extended families.

“I feel like  the school, parents and the kids are all a big family,” Roberts said.

The Summer Reading Program will be held in the Woodlands Elementary Library from noon to 2 p.m. every Thursday through Aug. 9.

Roberts said she invited parents and their children to attend and have fun staying engaged in learning.

“When the entire family gets involved,’ she said. “That is a great feeling.”