Friday, December 15, 2023

Collaboration between students ignites passion for reading

By Lorraine Glowczak

The Raymond Elementary School (RES) library was filled with intergenerational bibliomania on a Friday afternoon in late November as 10 Windham High School (WHS) students traveled to Raymond to read books to third grade students, eagerly waiting in anticipation. The 25-minute “read to me’ experience fostered a love for the written word and built a sense of community and mentorship between the two schools.

During a recent reading adventure, third-grade
students from Raymond Elementary School
were enthralled as Windham High School
students read to them. Beatriz De Sturdze,
a third grader, right, attentively listened
as WHS senior Lydia Wilson read
'Horton Hears a Who' to her class.
The 25 third graders, who were divided into groups of five and paired with a high school mentor, had the opportunity to listen to and then discuss books from popular childhood literature. This cooperative event was spearheaded by Valerie Carpentier, WHS Library Media Specialist.

“I initiated this collaboration between the high school and RES to empower all students in their reading,” she said. “I was building upon the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) Read to ME Challenge that begins in February every year. I hope to increase the program to include more students within the district very soon.”

According to the DOE website, The Read to ME Challenge is a month-long public awareness campaign to promote childhood literacy in Maine. The Challenge is an opportunity to contribute to a child’s literacy growth by reading aloud in any language to one or more children for at least 15 minutes a day.

Carpentier also mentioned that countless research shows reading out loud to children helps develop their language skills, early literacy, as well as their social-emotional intelligence. 

"Pairing all that wonderful learning with being read to by a high schooler has such a positive impact on children,” she said.

A few students were willing to share their experience of the day including third grader Beatriz De Sturdze. The young bookworm said that her mentor made the afternoon of storytelling fun and interesting.

“She actually used a funny voice and spoke louder and raised her voice up and down while she told the story.”

De Sturdze said that her mother reads to her every day, but it was fun having another person to look up to.

“She made me want to read more because of her funny voice,” she said. “It made me giggle and laugh.”

An avid reader and third grader Kieran Allen shared a different experience.

“It was sort of like an adventure,” Allen said. “I read sometimes on my own but there are times it is nice to take a break and have someone I don’t know read to me. It’s nice to just listen to the story and relax.”

De Sturdze’s reading mentor, WHS senior Lydia Wilson, said her participation in this collaborative opportunity was two-fold.

“I decided to take part in reading to the RES students because I like kids,” Wilson said. “But not only that, I was a RES student and I wanted to go back to see the teachers and the spaces where I first learned to read myself.”

According to the Nationwide Children’s® pediatric organization, reading with young children can help them develop a skill they will use for the rest of their lives while fostering a love of an activity that also enhances brain development.

“Children who are exposed to reading before preschool tend to develop larger vocabularies and are more likely to succeed during their formal education. If a child is not proficient in reading by third grade, they are at a higher risk for not graduating from high school,” the organization’s pediatrics say.

Carpentier plans to increase the reading program to all elementary schools in the district and to become a regular occurrence throughout the school year. It’s her goal to spread the love of reading and connect the school communities on a greater level while building bridges between younger and older students, fostering a culture of mentorship, compassion, and a shared passion for the written word. <

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