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Summer Learning Can Mean Big Fun

Educators across Kent County are making efforts to curb summer-learning loss, the tendency for students to lose ground on what they’ve learned during the long, lazy summer months.

A new Grand Rapids Public Schools Summer Literacy Program, funded by a $250,000 donation from former Autocam owner John Kennedy, will serve 300 kindergarten through third-grade students July 6-Aug. 6 from Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy and Brookside and Campus elementary schools at two different sites.

Editor’s Note: The Road to Reading series explores some of the reading activities you’ll find in our schools as well as difficulties students may face when learning to read. The series also examines early childhood ties to literacy and new initiatives to help all children read.
Related Story: Teacher Hosts Weekly Library Days to Keep Students Reading This Summer – Ginger VanderBeek, who’s taught in Wyoming Public Schools for 17 years, is helping her students make reading a regular part of their school-free summer days with weekly trips to the library. “I just thought it might encourage them to read a little more over the summer, and I’ve asked them to write three book reports this summer,” she said.
Summer Programs at Kent District Library Have Students Reading Like Magic

Doves named Hotdog and French Fry appeared, a plastic egg became a real one and a never-ending rainbow-colored scarf came out of magician Tom Plunkard’s mouth.

West Kelloggsville Elementary students giggled in delight at the mind-bending tricks, but Plunkard’s antics were meant to motivate students to spend time this summer reading.

“Repeat after me. ‘I, say your name, promise to sign up for summer reading at the Kent District Library and if I don’t I will eat slimy worms,'” Plunkard prodded his pint-sized audience.

The students repeated, erupting into laughter as they said ‘your name’ instead of their own. The silliness was contagious.

The KDL Summer Reading Program, “Celebrate Heroes,” kicked off to challenge students to read 15 minutes a day, marking 30 days on a calendar through Aug. 8, for prizes and entry into a raffle for big prizes.

Several other summer events and programs are also planned at KDL branches this summer.



Bridget Cheney, GRPS director of elementary and K-8 schools, said administrators hope to offer the program annually. It fits in with a literacy initiative being piloted in southeast elementary schools.

“Students are benefiting because it’s small group instruction,” she said. Twenty-five teachers are working with the students, offering specialized attention for each child.

“It’s going to be fun for the kids. They are going to be reading books that are of high interest to them,” Cheney said. “We have wonderful incentives for time and participation in the program…We all hear about summer learning loss, so if they are reading over the summer it helps us ensure the loss is minimized because they have exposure to rich text,” she said.

Grand Rapids Pubic Schools also offer the LOOP, an after-school enrichment effort that includes a six- to eight-week summer program.

Another option for students is to work at home, said Judy Johnson, director of Grand Rapids Academic Summer Program (GRASP), created 38 years ago by GRPS teachers as a cost effective substitute for traditional summer school.

About 20,000 students from all over the U.S. use GRASP, which consists of math and reading packets that include nine weekly lessons designed to reinforce or re-teach grade-level skills. Students mail in their work, lessons are scored, then results are recorded and returned to the children. An online version of GRASP is also available for grades 4-8.

“It keeps minds sharp over the summer and it’s not overwhelming,” Johnson said, noting that students take up to an hour and a half to complete each packet.

Other districts offering special summer-school reading programs include Kentwood Public Schools, Godfrey Lee Public Schools, Kenowa Hills Public Schools and Rockford Public Schools.

West Kelloggsville Elementary second-grader Omariyah Wilson-Smith reacts to magician Tom Plunkard’s tricks
West Kelloggsville Elementary second-grader Omariyah Wilson-Smith reacts to magician Tom Plunkard’s tricks

Wyoming Public Schools is serving 700 students in reading, math and other subjects with summer school hosted in conjunction with the enrichment program T.E.A.M 21, which stands for Teach, Enrich, Achieve and Motivate, offered through a partnership between Wyoming, Godwin,Godfrey Lee and Kelloggville school districts and the City of Wyoming.

Students in Northview and Lowell Public Schools can look forward to the arrival of mobile reading programs. The traveling libraries allow students to check out books for prizes at different locations.

Lowell’s “Arrow Readers on the Move” travels to Cherry Creek and Murray Lake elementary schools, and the Alto and Englehardt branches of Kent District Libray. Prizes are awarded to students who meet summer reading goals for the respective grade level.

Northview Public Schools’ mobile library, “Northview Wild About Reading,” has stops planned at East Oakview, Northville Park Pool and several other locations.

West Kelloggsville Elementary third-grader Thaila Spencer works on combing her hair and brushing her teeth at the same time during the magic show
West Kelloggsville Elementary third-grader Thaila Spencer works on combing her hair and brushing her teeth at the same time during the magic show





Arrow Readers on the Move

Northview Wild About Reading

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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