Big literacy push at area schools

Edgewater Elementary School hosted a vocabulary parade at the school on Friday. Each of the 400 students had to independently find an unfamiliar word and then dress in costume to illustrate the meaning. This was the second year that the school held the word parade.

Megan King, fourth-grade teacher at the school who serves on the school’s literacy committee, heard about other schools doing a vocabulary parade and thought that it would be a good alternative to the traditional Halloween parade. She presented the idea to Principal Barry Fader, and he embraced it.

Third-grade teacher Julie Hesenperger, who also serves on the literacy committee, said that she liked the idea because it allowed children to dress up and be creative in their costumes, but gave students an opportunity for independent learning.

According to Julie, the county rule limiting parties to two per year made the group want to find a way for the kids to do something fun but with a purpose.

So about three weeks ago, children were instructed to find an unfamiliar word on their own. Julie said that for her students, it fit nicely since the Rotary Club had recently delivered dictionaries to each and every student as part of their Dictionary Project.

"One of my students came up with the word, ‘ornithologist,’ Julie said. "He had an interesting costume – he used foam core and put moss and grass around it and then put fake birds on. He wore a hard hat and binoculars," Julie said, describing how the student worked to illustrate being a bird scientist.

Not only did the students participate in the parade, but teachers and administrators also dressed up. Principal Fader dressed up as a as a ketchup bottle. Julie dressed as the word ‘abundance,’ by using pictures of hot dog buns and a dancer, phonetically sounding out, ‘a- bun-dance.’

Upon returning to the classroom, each student told their classmates the definition of the word, and any synonyms or antonyms that they could find.

At Davidsonville Elementary School on Monday children in kindergarten through third grade were invited to attend a free reading night hosted entirely by school staff.

The event was funded by a grant from Target stores, which the school won after second-grade teacher Megan Kinner wrote a proposal last May. The grant was for $2,000.

Megan said that one of the biggest issues for students is encouraging them to read every night throughout the school year.

‘We want to bring a love of reading, and reading aloud, and we wanted to find a way to encourage that,’ Megan said.

While Megan had to think through and map out the Reading Night plan for the purpose of the proposal, winning the grant meant that she needed to put those words into action. When she found out in August that she had won the grant, she began to put the evening’s activities together.

Working with her colleagues Lori Balzano and Stacy Taylor, both second-grade teachers, they got books and crafts and made arrangements for special guest readers.

At the Monday event, they had over 100 children and their parents show up. The event centered around a baseball theme to coincide with the World Series. They had three stations: first base, second base and third base as well as a beginning and ending assembly where everyone gathered together. Students rotated among the stations.

At first base, parents were given tips for reading to their children, like finding a comfortable space with easy access to books, pointing to words as you read aloud to your child, alternating reading pages of the book and engaging in a dialogue with your child about the story. Then parents and children scattered around the gymnasium to read to each other.

At second base, Principal Jean Marie Hofstadter read a story to students.

At third base, students had refreshments and got a craft.

Every 20 minutes the organizers told the students to rotate to the next station. Amy Swank came with her two children, Colton, 5, and Tory, 7.

‘If you develop a love of reading, there’s nothing you can’t do,’ she said as she worked on the craft with her two kids.