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Building a community of readers

Comstock Park —  Fifth-grader Addisyn Carpenter finds the book “Nuts to You” both funny and educational. She said she’s learned a lot about what squirrels like to eat.

“One fact is that they like crunchy peanut butter,” Addisyn said.

Fifth-grader Henry Vandenberg also likes that the book intertwines humor with facts. He learned that it’s a squirrel’s instinct to scamper up a tree when a wolf is around. 

Fourth-grader Reid Dursee enjoys reading about squirrels. He said his mom and grandma like squirrels, and regularly joke about them. A reader of National Geographic magazine and autobiographies, Reid pointed out that he read the entire book ahead of schedule. 

Classmate Braston Messer likes that the squirrels keep splitting up and finding one another. She learned it’s not wise to lie about something “if it really isn’t happening,” she said.

One School, One Book

All Pine Island Elementary students are reading the book as part of the school’s annual One School, One Book reading activity during March. 

One School, One Book is part of Read to Them, a national organization that offers programs to encourage reading at home by providing schools with tools, resources, guidance and support. It is Pine Island’s fourth year with the program. 

Fourth-grader Reid Durfee finished reading ‘Nuts to You’ ahead of schedule

“Nuts to You” by Newbery Medalist Lynne Rae Perkins, is about three courageous squirrels that face a crisis when one of them is swept up by a hawk. The narrative includes clever word usage, witty footnotes and descriptions of the squirrels’ adventures.

Stacy Reehl, principal of Pine Island Elementary, said books are selected around an annual school theme. “Adventure awaits…LEAD the way” is this year’s theme.

“‘Nuts to You’ is also a great middle-level reading book that is great for all levels of readers,” Reehl said. “All students reading the same book builds a community of readers and fosters excitement.”

Students are expected to read 10-15 minutes a day and finish two to three chapters a week. This year there are weekly, virtual trivia questions for students and prizes are awarded for correct answers. In past years, trivia took place at school assemblies on Fridays. 

“(Trivia) gets the students who have read excited to share their answers, but also the student who may not have read excited to catch up,” Reehl said.

Fourth-grade teacher Rachel Vandenberg’s students worked in groups to come up with their own trivia questions as a way to keep motivated to read, and to motivate their classmates. She noted some students lack motivation to do the required reading.

Some favorite books and authors of Pine Island Elementary students

Benefits of Reading Together

Pine Island’s reading intervention teachers, Karen Lay and Susan Companion offer advice to parents to keep students reading. Lay’s advice to parents is to read with their children at home, and encourage them to read as much as possible.

“Share books and share love of reading. Be able to read a few pages and stop and talk about what happened in the stories.”  Lay said. She suggests asking children what they noticed, what they liked and what they learned.

Companion said reading 20 minutes a night makes a huge difference.

“There are studies that have shown that if students are reading below grade level it affects them from elementary school through high school,” Companion said. 

Lay works with small groups of students who are struggling at grade level in reading. Students are identified in a variety of ways including scores from tests, reading comprehension and writing and spelling skills. 

Companion starts her small group lessons with phonics to get students thinking about sounds, words and letters, “and then we always read a story together.”

Pine Island uses instructional reading literacy program Fountas & Pinnell, supplemented by other activities and books.

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Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry
Karen Gentry covers Comstock Park. She moved to the Grand Rapids area in the mid-1980s and has been a resident of Comstock Park since 2002. She understands the complexity, rewards and challenges of the teaching profession as she has five years of experience as a high school teacher at River Valley High School in Three Oaks, Mich. and St. Stephen High School in Saginaw. As a reporter for the Advance Newspapers and Mlive she covered Sparta, Kent City and Northview schools. She is happy to be a part of the great team of journalists at School News Network and writing about Comstock Park Public Schools. She is a graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St Joseph, Michigan and Central Michigan University. Read Karen's full bio


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