By Jim Newell
March is National Reading Month and schools across the Lake Orion district have embraced activities that encourage kids to read: reading books as a school, fun activities, dressing up as characters, reading scavenger hunts, reading Olympics.
And welcoming guest readers.
JoAnn Van Tassel was one of the guest readers who recently read to students. Last year, Van Tassel read to students at Carpenter Elementary. This year, she visited two classrooms at five of Lake Orion’s six elementary schools.
“As someone who loves books I thought it would be a good idea to contact the elementary principals and see if I could come in to the schools and read to the kids,” Van Tassel said.
After getting classroom assignments, Van Tassel went to the bookstore and chose age-appropriate books – which she donated to each of the classrooms after reading to them.
In Kristen Richard’s first grade class at Orion Oaks Elementary, Van Tassel read The Forever Tree by Tereasa Surratt and Donna Lukas.
The book, described as a twist on Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, is a children’s picture book about a real tree in Wisconsin and is “a timeless story about loss and renewal at home and in nature.”
In Francie Robertson’s fourth grade class at Orion Oaks, Van Tassel read What do you do with a Problem? After hearing the title of the book, Elliot, one of the students, said, “That is definitely what Monday is like.”
Orion Oaks Elementary Principal Drew Towlerton said the school has a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory theme for the month and the entire school is reading the book.
“Our family network has partnered with our media specialist in turning the building into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Our entire school is doing One Book, One School where we’re reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, answering trivia questions throughout the week and doing activities that are centered around reading that book. We’ve had a lot of fun with it, too,” Towlerton said.
Orion Oaks has had many guest readers throughout the month: parents, kids’ family members, district administrators. “We’ve even set up where elementary school principals will go back and forth and read to kids in other buildings,” Towlerton said.
It’s also essential for children to be exposed to reading and begin practicing their literacy skills at a young age.
“It’s incredibly important, and especially in this day and age we’re finding that in so much of the different subjects – math, science, social studies – that literacy and reading is the foundation of everything. We really try to spend a lot of time, especially at our lower grades, to really get those skills built up. We’ve got great programming here in the district, but it’s incredibly important to have kids read, so anytime we can get kids listening to someone read or reading themselves is a huge benefit to them.”
Anyone who does want to read to a class should contact the principals or media specialists at the schools, or email their child’s teacher to arrange a visit, Towlerton said. “We always welcome people to come in and read. We love guest readers.”
“I love to read and I love to encourage kids to read. It was a natural idea,” Van Tassel said of her decision to contact the schools. Oh, and one of Van Tassel’s favorite books is The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy.
Other March is Reading Month activities in LOCS:
Scripps Middle School: Students are reading in the media center before school and during lunches for 10-minute intervals to enter into gift card drawings held on Fridays. The top readers in each grade earn a free movie ticket to go see A Wrinkle in Time in theaters.
Waldon Middle School: “Get Caught Reading.” Students are given tickets throughout the month for the amount of time they’re seen reading — and they accumulate to win prizes, including a movie with media specialist Katherine Montei.
Carpenter Elementary: Students are reading for the gold during “Carpenter Reading Olympics.” As students meet their weekly goals, they fill the Olympic rings with color in hopes of reaching the gold medal level of 150,000 reading minutes.
Oakview Middle School: Students work together as a STAR class to try to earn the most points weekly to win at the MIRM scavenger hunt using the app, Goosechase. They’ll play the game every full week in March, for a total of four times. The winning STAR classes receive a $5 Amazon gift card for each student. There’s also weekly and monthly contests in the Media Center.
Lake Orion High School: The LOHS Learning Center is in on the action, asking students to tweet photos of themselves reading and tag @LOHS_LC. Prizes are awarded each school day of the month for the best shot.
Stadium Drive Elementary: Held a reading kickoff assembly as students embraced the theme, “Reading is our Superpower.” They took the Super Reader oath.