Category Archives: Reading

Everyone on the same page

Here’s a cool idea. Everyone in the school; students, teachers, principal, cafeteria workers, librarian, custodian, bus drivers, and parents–everyone reads the same book. That way no one has to ask, “Did you read…” because they had.

Everyone could be part of the discussion and activities pertaining to the book. It would be what everyone is talking about. Much like the way popular movies and TV shows, and yes, cute kitten videos on YouTube, create a social currency so would a book everyone has read, except books create deeper and more meaningful connections as they are more complex and richer in detail and subtleties.

A group of authors are facilitating the community read, called Share Our Books. They and their publishers have made available 250-300 books for six weeks to for a school to read, and then the school sends them on to the next school, replacing any lost or damaged books.

So far, Sara Pennypacker, Fred Bowen, Kate DiCamillo, Barbara O’Connor, Jewell Parker Rhodes (an ASU professor) and Uma Krishnaswami have signed on to Share Our Books.


A giant card for a giant of children’s literature

Story and Photos by Daniel Friedman

Lexis Preparatory School librarian Darla Ghanat and art teacher George Heslop teamed up to create the largest birthday card in the world. They checked with the Guiness World Records and found no entry for the world’s largest birthday card so yesterday they set the standard. According to measurements, their card is 29ft, 6 inches by 15 feet, 10 inches.

Art teacher George Heslop, and seventh grader Josh Ervin measure the birthday card for Dr. Seuss.

The card is for Dr. Seuss, who would be 108 today. Lexis Prep is participating in the NEA’s Read Across America celebration. Every year on Seuss’s birthday, schools celebrate the value of reading, since most kids became Seuss devotees, at the same time they became readers.

All of Lexis Prep's students signed the card.

Some students drew their favorite Seuss characters.

Others included their favorite lines along with their salutations and drawings.

Then they folded it up... put in the world's largest envelope on which will be the world's largest stamp. Actually, the card will be hung on a wall big enough to display it.

High stakes for kindergarteners, crucial info for parents

A new law approved in 2010 by the Arizona State Legislature will raise the bar for this year’s kindergarteners when they reach the third grade. The law mandates that students who have not met the standard reading level by the end of third grade will be held back to repeat the grade.

According to First Things First, an organization that aims to help parents prepare their young children (ages 0-5) for school, there is plenty that parents can do at home to set their children up for success in kindergarten and throughout their lives.

On the organization’s resource website,, parents can find tip sheets to help guide them through caring for their children at the various ages and stages of their early development, and learn how best to prepare kids for entering kindergarten.

Consistent talking, reading and explorative play is extremely important during early childhood, says Jolene Mutchler, a preschool teacher and member of the First Things First Central Pima Regional Partnership Council.

The first five years of life serve as the foundation for future learning and development, and students who begin school behind the standards typically stay there, research shows. That’s why it is so important to begin preparing kids early, providing them with positive learning environments, both in and out of the home, Mutchler says.

For more information, including tips for promoting early childhood learning development, visit

Summer reading, turned adventure

Linda McFayden, reading director at New Vistas School, helps a young reader meet her summer reading goal.

Encouraging your kids to keep reading over the summer is so important for maintaining their reading proficiency, and it doesn’t have to be a struggle. With a little creativity, it can even be fun!

New Vistas Center for Education, a Chandler private school for children from preschool through high school,  has developed a special program that turns summer reading from a chore into a game, complete with a theme, goals and rewards.

Linda McFadyen, reading director at New Vistas, developed the “Book a Trip – Ticket to Read” program to engage preschool through grade school readers by encouraging them to log their reading hours and achieve their goals.

Preschool through second grade students strive to log 300 hours of reading over the course of the summer, while third through sixth grade students must reach or exceed 600 hours. At the start of the school year, McFayden plans to distribute awards to recognize students who complete their reading goals.

McFayden also organized an accountability system called “Check and Chat,” through which students have the opportunity to come in to three sessions throughout the summer, which serve as check points to keep students on track.

The program at New Vistas is inspired by the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, which provided the reading list from which New Vistas students have made their summer selections in subjects ranging from mystery to mathematics.

McFayden says parents have been instrumental in facilitating the reading program, coming up with creative ways to keep books accessible and fun for their young readers. Some have begun to keep books in the family car, developed their own special incentives for meeting reading goals and organized neighborhood book clubs.

You can inspire your own young reader in similar ways, developing curiosity, vocabulary and confidence. Just get creative, and read for fun with your child this summer! — Sadie Smeck

RAK Archives
Find links to summer reading programs at Valley libraries.

Library clerk’s Millionaires Club promotes reading

Members of the Millionaire's Club. Photo courtesy of GESD.

Last week, the Glendale Elementary School District‘s Discovery Elementary School welcomed 27 new members to the prestigious Millionaires Club, where the criteria are not about dollars earned, but words absorbed.

Created by library clerk Michele Beney, the club issues a challenge to students and staff at the school: Read as many books as it takes to reach the mark of one million words or more.

The new members, along with the top five readers from every grade, were rewarded with an ice cream party put on by the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.

This year, 267 students and a few staff members accepted the challenge. Beney tallied their progress on a board in the school library. With the help of websites and some counting on her own, Beney totaled up the word counts of every book in the school library. The students and staff had until May 25, the last day of school, to break the one million-word mark. One student was admitted to the club way back in November!

Open to all ages—two second-graders were recently inducted—the challenge is a school-wide endeavor. Because lower-level books often have small word counts, Beney instituted an alternate counting system for grades K-3. “I didn’t want anyone to be discouraged, she said.

Since the October founding of the Millionaires Club, Discovery Elementary has seen a boost in library attendance, even among students whose primary interest beforehand was not reading.

“It does take extra time,” Beney says, “but if I can get one student to read more then it’s worth it.”

With luck, Beney hopes, the club’s success will translate into more books for the library. Tight education budgets make the purchasing of new books difficult, so the school is taking donated books, which Beney can exchange with local bookstores to secure what the library needs. The program is also giving the clerk an idea of what students’ favorites are. So far the leaders are the Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, as well as the creepy books of R.L. Stine.

“I’m enjoying seeing what they’re reading,” says Benney. “I’m getting to know what they enjoy and like, and that gives me plenty of ideas on what new books, if any, I can order.” – Robert T. Balint

Online tool prevents summer “brain drain”

We all know that when school lets out and there’s no more homework or class time, kids are at higher risk for losing what they learned during the school year. So don’t let your kids’ brains melt in the summer heat!

The Scholastic Summer Challenge is an interactive, online summer reading program that allows kids to track their progress with an online reading log, win prizes for reaching their reading goals and even compete as a school to reach a summer reading World Record.

Parents and educators are encouraged to get involved too – you can register online to receive updates on your young reader’s progress, search and share summer reading lists and get tips and activity ideas to engage your child or student.

The Summer Challenge is totally free, and program resources are available in both English and Spanish. It is easy to register any time at — Sadie Smeck

Doctor’s prescription: reading

Instead of leaving the doctor’s office with a prescription for their child’s ear infection or strep throat, some Valley parents are taking home Curious George or Madeline.

Photo courtesy of Reach Out and Read.

Physicians working with Reach Out and Read are prescribing books to young children and their parents with the intention of bringing families together and also giving young children a head start on the school years to come.

Serving nearly four million children across the country, Reach Out and Read has partnered with 4,500 hospitals and health centers so pediatricians can prescribe books during regular checkups. Young children leave the office with a new book in hand.

During the checkups, doctors talk to parents about how important it is for them to read with their children while they are still very little, even if all they do is look at the pictures.

According to Reach Out and Read, preschool-age children who read with their parents have an easier time learning to read once they reach school. Because test scores and school standards put such a huge focus on reading skills, this could be a very important step to improving national averages in reading.

Another focus of Reach Out and Read is to provide reading materials to low-income families who may not have money to spend on books because they are busy providing the basics.

“A typical middle-class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of read-aloud time, while a child from a low-income family averages just 25 hours,” according to the Reach Out and Read website.

If doctors can be a resource for distributing developmentally appropriate books, children from low-income families have a chance at bringing those hours up.

The other huge benefit to the program is bringing families closer together. When I was little, my parents, my sister and I would sit down in the living room every night before bed and read a book. This ritual continued into my teens as we all became addicted to the Harry Potter books and refused to wait to take turns reading them.

Now, even with my busy school/internship/social life schedule, I try to fit in reading for fun whenever I can. I bring books to kill time on the light rail or while I’m waiting for appointments to start. Because of the love for reading my parents gave me I rarely struggled with school reading assignments because I associated them with fun. With this program, parents may be able to create little bookworms of their own.

Check out the Reach Out and Read list of recommended books. — Veronica Jones