When I am not at school, my favorite thing to do is to spend time with my family, and more specifically, with my five nieces. They are all under five, so generally the first part of our time together is spent playing any number of games with a variety of toys. Eventually, and without fail, one of the girls will bring me a book to read as she snuggles into my lap. As I begin to read, I think of Dr. Seuss’ quote that, “you can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”
As the story comes to life, one by one my other nieces begin to listen. By the time we’re nearing the end of the book, all five of them are usually standing or sitting around me, enchanted by the story we are sharing. I can tell by their faces and their concentration that they have found the magic in the book. The magic is also evident in their requests for more books; stories through which they can become fairies, explore outer space, or venture out on a wild safari.
This love of books and eagerness to experience the magic of the stories within is something that we also strive to instill in our students at Lakewood Catholic Academy. In order to learn to read, students have to WANT to read. With this goal in mind, we are changing the way that our kindergarten through fourth grade students experience reading by implementing the guided reading program.
Guided reading is a research-based literacy approach that is differentiated to support all students. Books are leveled from A-Z on a system developed by Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. In order to determine each child’s reading level, he or she is benchmarked by the teacher and then placed into a reading group, where curriculum standards and skills will be taught by using a book that is just right for those students. Groups throughout the year are fluid, allowing students to move to the next level when ready.
In order to support the transition to guided reading, we have purchased a system through Scholastic that is comprised of $30,000 worth of books in the areas of fiction, non-fiction, and text types. These books are located in our new book room, which I encourage you to visit at some point this year to look through all of the amazing resources that are now available for our students. Our teachers have been extensively trained, and they are already enthusiastically implementing lessons from the program in each classroom.
I have had the pleasure of watching some of these lessons, in which students learn that reading is thinking, that there are many reasons why people choose books, and that there is a way to find a book that is “just right for you.” Our teachers present these lessons with a joy and passion that makes it impossible to feel anything but excitement when thinking about reading. Our students wait in anticipation to be called to get a book and find the magic in their own silent reading spot. I encourage you to speak with our young Saints about reading class, and to learn about what magical world they were able to experience today.
~ Brenna Warrell, Principal