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Teacher Hosts Weekly Library Days to Keep Students Reading This Summer

Oriole Park Elementary second-grader Ayla Wiltrout reads at the Kent District Library Wyoming branch
Oriole Park Elementary second-grader Ayla Wiltrout reads at the Kent District Library Wyoming branch

Oriole Park Elementary School teacher Ginger VanderBeek scanned the shelves in the children’s section at the Wyoming branch of Kent District Library for books about kings and queens. She grabbed a few possibilities for fourth-graders Maya Wiltrout and Emma Parm and fifth-grader Kalin Wiltrout.

The girls paged through the books, considering biographies on Princess Diana and Cleopatra for book reports they are working on at home this summer.

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 Wednesday morning 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.

  • All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on thesame tests at the beginning of the summer.
  • Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.
  • More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college.
  • Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break.
  • Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do.

Source: National Summer Learning Association

VanderBeek already knows what kind of books each of her soon-to-be fourth graders enjoys because she taught them as third-graders. Oriole Park teachers “loop,” spending two years with each group of students.

By third and fourth grade, finding new favorite books is a treat, she said.

“Obviously, the more you read the more you find what you like and don’t like,” VanderBeek said.

“By third grade, you get to be a good enough reader that you can read really good books that have a lot more content and deeper characterization.

“Kids start to really love to read at that point, so let’s encourage that,” she said, noting that it’s evident come fall when students aren’t reading over the summer.

For Maya, it’s nice to have a teacher who knows what captures her attention. “She helps us pick out books and find what authors we like,” Maya said.

Mandy Wiltrout said she’s thrilled with VanderBeek’s efforts for her daughters, Maya, Ayla and Kalin, and niece Emma. “This Wednesday library thing is awesome… She knows what books they are interested in, and she knows their attention span.”

VanderBeek also invites her students and their parents to weekly park get-togethers.

As a parent, Wiltrout is also helping the girls stay on track. She assigns writing activities centered around books they read. The book report on a king or queen was an incentive to go to Jester’s Court, a royal-themed children’s entertainment center in Grand Rapids.

“It keeps their minds fresh, keeps them from being bored and, hopefully, keeps them moving forward. The kids like to learn, and so I’m going to keep giving them stuff to learn,” Wiltrout said.


National Summer Learning Association

Kent District Library summer reading program

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. 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 or email Erin.


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