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Kingsport school system touts success of Read to Be Ready Camp

Rick Wagner • Oct 7, 2017 at 7:00 PM

KINGSPORT — When someone wants to know if the Read to Be Ready program grant that funded a reading camp at Lincoln Elementary is money well-spent, Roosevelt Elementary counselor Alice Browder has a tangible example of how immersing students in reading for a month pays dividends.

He is a first-grader at Roosevelt who went through the program this summer.

Amy Doran, coordinator of early childhood education and grant writer for Kingsport City Schools, and Browder gave the Board of Education a presentation about the camp held in June for 60 selected students from Title 1 schools in the city system. Those are schools where a high percentage of the students are eligible for free and reduced-cost meals. The students were chosen for the camp because teachers indicated the children needed to improve their reading.

“Not only the children were excited but the teachers,” Doran said of the “100 percent” literacy program that had a teacher-pupil ratio of 1-to-5, unheard of in public and most private schools. “It was not high-tech. It was getting hardbound books in their hands.”

What was it like for students?

Doran and Browder said the program immersed students in reading five days a week. For instance, during daily lunches, which were provided free by the Summer Feeding Program, adults dressed as storybook characters read to the children, Doran said. Over the month, each child received 25 books and made his or her own customized wooden crate in which to store them at home. The grant requires the students to receive at least 10 books.

Why is Browder sold on the program?

Up to the midpoint of the month-long program this summer, a rising first-grader Browder knew from Roosevelt, Daymian Westergard, wasn’t interested in reading unless the teachers all but made him.

“He would not look at a book independently,” Browder said. But halfway through the month, Browder found him reading one morning. And now that Daymian is in first grade, Browder said he is a much more avid reader.

“Totally on his own, Daymian is sitting in a chair engrossed in a book,” Browder said of a photo she showed the board from this school year. She also tweeted the photograph to Tennessee Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen.

What are plans for the 2018 camp?

Doran said KCS won a $66,000 grant that funded the 2017 program, but the system plans to apply for a larger grant for 2018 so it can serve more students. Students likely will continue taking field trips, Doran and Browder said, like the ones this year to the Kingsport Public Library, Kingsport Carousel, Warriors Path State Park, Bays Mountain and, if they had good attendance, Wonder Works in Pigeon Forge. The program also has “Family Friday,” when parents visited their students. The program provided bus transportation for the children.

In addition, Kingsport students in the program became Twitter buddies with children in Haywood County, N.C., schools, and eventually exchanged snail mail letters and painted rocks with students in that school system, Doran said.

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