Sunday, October 1, 2023

Stopping the summer slump: Here’s how these teachers keep kids reading over the break

(HNNDaily Photo/Courtesy of Books on Bikes)
(HNNDaily Photo/Courtesy of Books on Bikes)

NEWPORT NEWS — Four teachers here have pulled their resources together to open up a chapter of Books on Bikes.

The teachers are Karen Ciotta and Megan Brooke from Greenwood Elementary and Michele McLean and Margie Dunmoodie from Epes Elementary.

This will be their fourth year of delivering books while school is out to the very same students they teach during the school year.

The rides start just a week after school ends, and end just before teachers go back for the beginning of the school year work days.

Ciotta, a first grade teacher at Greenwood Elementary, said they were trying to figure out a way to keep kids reading over the summer and after some searching online found the Books on Bikes program.

“We are trying to stop the summer slide,” Ciotta said.

The summer slide is a phrase used to describe how students can lose some of their reading ability over the summer because they are not reading as much, she said.

The Books on Bikes program originated in Charlottesville and Ciotta said the teachers there have been very helpful with getting them started.

All of the books are purchased through grant money, donations and fundraisers, Ciotta said.

They raised enough money in their first year to buy three bikes – one bike was donated.

Brooke, a kindergarten teacher at Greenwood Elementary, said they mostly buy books from Scholastic with their teacher discount but also don’t shy away from used book stores or donations.

Each kid gets to pick and keep 2-3 books per week as well as get a popsicle, Brooke said.

She said one of the goals is to help kids build their own home libraries.

To promote the program they have a kick-off event on the last day of school – they give out bookmarks with their riding schedule, Brooke said.

Another unique feature of the program is the availability of bilingual and Spanish books.

Many of the students are learning English at school but their parents might not speak it at home, Ciotta said.

By having books that are written in both Spanish and English, the kids can still keep up with their reading habits over the summer.

The rides don’t stop after summer break – the teachers do the rides over the two-week winter break, but instead of giving out popsicles with the books, the kids get hot chocolate and candy canes.

The teachers also give out hats, gloves and scarves to kids in need during those rides.

So far the program is confined to four Newport News Schools: Greenwood Elementary, Epes Elementary, McIntosh Elementary and Discovery STEM Academy, but Ciotta would love to see it expand.

Click here to learn about the program or visit their Facebook page to check out their routes.

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