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Reading on the Common aims to keep kids learning


Keyshay King, 9; Alilnna Jones, 5; and Olivia Canady, 9, all of Lakeforest Elementary read at the Town Common.


Amber Revels Stocks

Monday, July 15, 2019

Reading just 20 minutes per day can expose a person to 1.8 million words per year, according to the National Institute of literacy. It also can help reverse “summer slide,” when students can lose up to three months of learning.

Read ENC and Horizons at The Oakwood School fought against that slump last week, using blankets, snacks and storybooks to lure young people to Greenville’s Town Common for the Read on the Common event.

Students from across the county gathered at the park’s amphitheater to hear stories from a variety of guest readers.

“We partnered with Terry Atkinson and the rest of the group from Read ENC to bring this event to downtown,” said Kris Arnold, executive director of Horizons, a six-week summer enrichment camp that focuses on low-income children. “They had already done a lot of work with literacy, but they wanted to find a connection to summer learning and, being that that’s what our program is all about, we partnered up and built this whole summer learning week.”

Each day of National Summer Learning Week centered on a different theme. Friday’s theme was reading, to emphasize how important it is for kids to read every day especially when they are not in school, according to Read ENC executive director Terry Atkinson.

“Reading at home every day is very important, research shows, for kids to return to school reading with the same level of understanding and comprehension that they left with,” she said. “It’s just like playing sports or the piano. If you don’t practice, you’re rusty when you come back to school.”

She recommend families read together whenever they have time, whether it be at a waiting room with a book nook or just at home before bed.

“Even 15 minutes is helpful,” Atkinson said. “If you spend 15 minutes reading as a family, that’s time for not only sharing good books but bonding together and having a special time when we’re not distracted by TV. There’s so many benefits that it’s hard to even describe.”

This was the first time Read on the Common has been held. While the threat of rain may have kept some people away, turnout still was good, according to Sheppard Memorial Library director Greg Needham.

“I think for a first time, it’s a fantastic turnout and good experience,” he said. “We have a lot of guest readers. We have a lot kids being read to.

“Research shows that if kids keep learning through the summer, they really do so much better when school starts back,” Needham said. “Over 80 percent of public school teachers spend weeks reviewing material from last year to get the kids caught back up. Well, if the kids keep reading over the summer, they’ll be a lot more prepared to begin where they left off and they can learn faster.

“When they do have that summer slide, when you lose over the summer what you learned during the year, it adds up every summer,” he said. “You get further and further behind. But if you read during the summer, you can get so much further ahead. It’s just one of the most powerful things we can do to help every child achieve their full potential.”

Greenville Mayor P.J. Connelly read “Lion Lessons” to the gathered students.

“It’s really important the kids see that reading is important for their development,” he said. “I really enjoyed getting to read to them today.”

The students enjoyed themselves as well. Taylor Tyson, 9, attends Ayden Elementary School. She enjoyed being able to read books to other students.

“‘Where the Wild Things Are’ was one of my favorites,” she said. “It’s like very interesting because he thinks he’s the boss of everybody, but he’s only little.

“I like to read because fiction is fun and you can learn information that you don’t know from non-fiction books,” Tyson said.

Yaniah Dudley, 9, from W.H. Robinson Elementary School in Winterville, also enjoyed reading non-fiction books. Her favorite was “Miles and Miles of Reptiles.”

“My mom makes me read to help me (prepare) for fourth grade,” she said.

Contact jstorm@reflector.com or 252-329-9587.