New "Reading Journey" starts for 2014-15 school year
New "Reading Journey" starts for 2014-15 school year
Posted on 09/30/2014
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WEST HAVEN, Sept. 30, 2014 — Special visitors, a pie in the principal’s face, a teacher dressed in a lion costume—If it will help kids develop a love for reading and get excited about books, West Haven Public School educators will make it happen.

Schools across the district often find ways to encourage students to read at home on their own, and Edith E. Mackrille Elementary School and Savin Rock Community School recently kicked off programs that aim to make bookworms out of young Westies.

Savin Rock’s “Roaring Readers” program began its second year Monday, with help from a lion-costume-clad reading teacher, while Mackrille launched the third year of its “Reading Journey” Sept. 26 with guest reader Bob Maxon, meteorologist for NBC Connecticut.

“Programs like these really grab the kids’ attention and show them reading can be fun for kids and adults and that it’s a skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives. We want to encourage reading at home for enjoyment, since it will help boost their literacy and academic abilities and could become a lifelong hobby,” said Mackrille Principal Judy Drenzek, who promised her students she would take a pie in the face at the end of the year if they complete her reading challenge.

The district as a whole is emphasizing the importance of literacy skills, since all subjects--even math--have reading elements.  Research has shown that students who don’t read at grade level by third grade may have a difficult time catching up and may struggle in other subjects as well. Reading is part of lessons throughout the school day in West Haven, but students should also be reading outside of school as well.

As part of the Mackrille Reading Journey, students log how many books and pages they are reading at home and submit the information to school. A small paper version of Drenzek will “journey” a certain distance across a map of Connecticut on a special bulletin board based on how much the students read each month.

The project gives the school a chance to teach youngsters about different parts of Connecticut as the miniature Drenzek makes different stops, and helps kids track their reading progress. Last year in the same fashion, the miniature Drenzek "traveled" across the world in a special bulletin board display, and the year before that, she explored West Haven, giving children a history and geography lesson along the way.

Each month as part of the Mackrille Reading Journey, a visitor reads to students in the gym and talks about his or her favorite books. Maxon explained to Mackrille students how reading can help people of all ages.

“I read every night before I go to bed…  Each time you read, words go in your eyes and stick to your brain, just like pies will stick to the principal’s face,” Maxon quipped. “Then when you have a conversation with someone, you remember some of the words you read. You can learn all sorts of cool words when you read.”

The meteorologist’s book choice for his special visit was fitting: “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.”

In the past, Mayor Ed O’Brien, Miss Connecticut, other TV personalities and additional local dignitaries have read to the Mackrille school community for the Reading Journey.

At Savin Rock, students are challenged to read 20 minutes a night five days a week and to bring into school a reading log signed by a parent, says Principal Taryn Driend. At the end of each month, those who successfully complete the task receive a book to keep, a pizza coupon and a ticket to be entered into a Kindle tablet raffle at the end of the school year. Their pictures also go on a Roaring Readers display in school.

Those who keep up with the program all year are invited to a special awards ceremony in the spring.

School staff, including literacy teacher Kristen Malloy-Scanlon in her lion costume, helped students celebrate the start of the challenge with an assembly that included a group sing-a-long of “The Children Read at Night,” sung to the tune of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

“Our reading department staff members do a great job of putting on this program, and their enthusiasm at Monday’s assembly was really uplifting and memorable for the kids. We want students to know that no matter what their reading level is, they can work hard and become a Roaring Reader,” Driend said. “We want them to participate and feel comfortable reading here in school and at home on their own or with a parent or guardian.”

Reading programs in Savin Rock, Mackrille and schools across the district will be supplemented by family literacy nights throughout the school year.