Summer reading program turns page into second year

While some adults despair that kids today spend too much time on social media and too little time reading, the Williamsport Area School District summer reading program has managed to pair reading for pleasure with sharing pictures of reading adventures on-line.

For the second year, students in kindergarten to sixth grade at the district’s primary and intermediate schools will enjoy Millionaires Read, which offers students, parents, teachers and administrators a digital platform to share images of their reading experiences to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram if they choose, using #MillionairesRead.

“It’s a connection when they see our teachers and administrators read,” said Patti Wylie, director of federal programs for the district. “We’re excited.”

Reading in unexpected places is part of the fun.

Photos from last year’s successful program include a teacher reading on horseback, another on a treadmill, a sunbather enjoying a book on the beach by the lifeguard station, several readers soaking in the bathtub and one photo taken at Hoover Dam.

“It’s a great way to engage with (students),” said Greg Hayes, public relations director for WASD and executive director of the Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation, “as it adds an interactive piece.” “It’s a localized and more modern way for kids to see that we want to encourage that interaction and connection.” “It was pretty cool to see those pictures come flooding in during the latter part of the summer last year, after the idea caught on.”

Families of rising kindergartners were also introduced to the summer program, Wylie said, and those students will be recognized along with other students in September.

“Kindergarten parents, who read with their little ones see it as a way to become part of the building,” she noted.

Summer reading has always been encouraged for students to maintain and grow the skills they developed during the previous school year and has been facilitated by the Foundation’s “Building Libraries through Literacy” program since 2011.

Funding from the Foundation provides a new book to each student who successfully completes the summer program, as shown in reading logs initialed by parents to verify time spent reading and titles of books completed.

The student then donates the book to the school library with a nameplate honoring the student’s contribution to building the school library for others into the future.

“Their eyes light up” when they hold their book for the first time,” said Hayes.

Sarah Bohnert, elementary librarian, ensures that each book chosen for the student matches his or her reading interests, as revealed in the reading log.

To promote the growth of home libraries, Otto Bookstore gives each student completing the program a $5 gift card.

In 2018, 152 new books were donated and installed across the district, according to the spring 2019 school district newsletter.

Since 2011, the Foundation has granted 1,129 new books to the elementary library system to help grow its inventory as a result of students’ summer reading efforts.

We’re hoping to see more and more this summer,” Hayes said of the digital interaction experience, where reading can become a social journey. “We keep it fun!”

Another opportunity for kids to find books in the summer is the Little Libraries program at the YMCA, Stevens Primary School and Firetree Place, where small boxes hold books for students to borrow and return as they wish.


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