Reading aloud to Lila, the reading dog, was one of the many ways elementary school students had the chance to improve their reading skills and discover new books to read this summer as part of the Summer Reading Program.
In its inaugural year, the program was an effort to maintain and improve reading levels throughout the summer vacation and “try to strengthen the Brophy family and community school partnerships,” said Lauren McDonough, Brophy literacy specialist.
A school data team noticed that as a trend, students had much lower scores on their reading assessments at the start of the school year as compared to scores in the spring. Brophy worked off what other schools have done, said Frank Rothwell, Brophy principal.
Each Tuesday in the of the public library, students and families could meet with teachers. “I’m really impressed with the turnout from the staff,” Rothwell said.
Each week the program started with a read aloud, modeling to students and their parents how to read and talk about books together, McDonough said.
Students were then set loose among library stacks, as teachers helped them choose books, talk about different titles and genres, and teach them how to check out books and use the library system, McDonough said.
It is invaluable to “show an interest in what [students] are reading,” Rothwell said. Working as the principal in a different context was one of Rothwell’s favorite aspects of the program, he said. “It was a really good exercise,” to talk to students outside of his administrative capacities.
“The teachers' stamp of approval is a good thing,” Gina Fishman, parent of two Brophy students. Her youngest daughter really appreciated that her teacher knew what books she might like; it made her more confident, she said.
After that, students could meet with a furry volunteer, a trained reading dog named Lila. Reading out loud to an animal helps students work on fluency and engagement, McDonough said, adding that students always had a good time engaging with the dog. “It really sparks the kids’ interest.”
“The whole concept is a great idea,” said Fishman.
The purpose of the program was to encourage summer reading, increase print access and understanding of the library, and connect with students and parents in the summer months, McDonough said.
Fishman said she hopes to see the program again in the coming summers, and expressed hope it could be offered on more days.
With only one summer of such a program under their belt, Brophy teachers and administrators are still looking for feedback from families. “The message is to read and write and talk about books as much as possible," McDonough said.