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Red carpet party rewards reading

90 students earn a sought-after ticket

Since this is Zoe Cato’s last year in elementary school, she did not want to miss her chance to experience the much-talked-about Red Carpet Cookout party.

“This is the first time that I did it,” said fifth-grader Zoe, “but I heard it was lots of fun so I wanted to make sure I got to come this year. I read all summer.”

Each year before school closes for summer break, Kent City students are presented with the challenge, which if met, earns them a ticket to the coveted party with food, music, and photo props, said Kathy Arlen, reading consultant.

“Kids who don’t read over the summer fall behind,” she said. By end of the fifth grade,Arlen explained, some can be nearly three grades behind their peers in reading skills.

“I learned that I like reading chapter books and everything.” – Reagan Simons

Fun hair was the thing for staff at the Red Carpet Cookout – Vice principal Will Lepech spends some time having fun with the students

The annual event kicks off in the spring and includes getting parents ready to help their children with the challenge.

Parents of young readers are encouraged to implement the “Duet Reading Strategy” with family members and older students are required to read six chapter books, which they summarize and review to earn a ticket to the event. Children in the Title 1 program receive ten books of their own choosing.

Over 90 students qualified for the Red Carpet Cookout this year, said Arlen.

“We were excited about the number of kids who participated in our summer reading challenge. We really were able to increase engagement over last year,” said Kent City Elementary principal, Pam Thomas. “Our hope is that we continue to grow the number of students and families who make reading just one of the many fun things they do in the summer.”

Read, read anywhere

Red Carpet Cookout attendees all learned one thing: reading can be done anywhere.

While Zoe read mostly on the “long ride up north,” others found all kinds of places to enjoy a good read.

Fifth-graders Desiree Baker (right) and Brooklyn Verburg watch the dancing

“I read mostly in my camper,” said fifth-grader Lexi Pendleton.

“I like sitting in the tree in my yard,” said fifth-grader Ciprian Howen.

“In my hammock,” said fifth-grader Emily Rivera.

“I read sitting on my pony,” said fourth-grader Mya Carter, who mostly likes mysteries.

“I like reading in my bunk bed most of all,” said Brooklyn Smith, who is partial to Amelia Bedelia books.

In addition to helping serve food, Thomas spent time at the Red Carpet Cookout chatting with students about what they read.

“What was so impressive and absolutely delightful, was how animated the students were as they talked about the books and characters they met over the summer,” she said.

Fourth-grader Bethany Vaughn said that she likes to read Dork Diaries. Fifth-grader Dyana Valdes  said that the “Series of Unfortunate Events” “engages her on the very first page.”

“It was the first time that I qualified (for the party),” said Reagan Simons, fourth-grade, “but it was worth it. I learned that I like reading chapter books and everything.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and is thrilled to spend some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.


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