Chatfield students celebrate reading with special events

SUBMITTED PHOTO The Rev. Nissa Peterson, of Chatfield Lutheran Church, shares a book with Chatfield Elementary School students during I Love to Read Week.
By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Chatfield News

Chatfield Elementary: Stepping up and staying on the same page…but not.

“Every year, our goal is 800 steps, or 200 hours, of reading. Currently, the goal is 520 by March 1. It has been a little tricky with all our snow days, but hopefully students are encouraged to pick up a book even when they are snowed in at home,” shared Chatfield Elementary School (CES) reading specialist Elissa Johnsrud. She explained how the goal at CES is to always have students turning a page and staying close to the schoolwide Action 100 reading program step count, but reading books of their own choosing.

That’s why February has typically been designated as “I Love to Read Month,” during which the staff and administration plans big events to encourage students’ love of literature. This year, however, the celebration was held from Friday, Feb. 22, to Friday, March 1.

Johnsrud pointed out on Feb. 22, “We are planning a weeklong celebration. Yesterday — Friday, Feb. 22 — was the kickoff, with a reading blitz of an hour and a half of reading for kindergarteners through third graders with guest readers. The fourth through sixth graders had a ‘coffee shop’ opening where students went to enjoy hot chocolate, talk about the best books they have read and get recommendations for new books to try. Next week, we will have related dress-up days, popcorn during reading generously provided by F&M Bank, and a reading carnival to celebrate how hard students have worked this year.”

She highlighted, “Like playing sports, the more you practice, the better you become. The same holds true with reading — the more students read, the better readers they become. By dedicating reading time, recommending books, exposing students to a variety of texts and authors, and validating their reading choices, we have seen students’ interest and motivation to read increase. It is through volumes and volumes of reading that many students gain the reading experience they need for academic success. This success spills over into other subjects, and it also transfers into how well we are doing as a school on our statewide testing. We are continuing to change the culture of our school, and we want every child to be a reader.”

Johnsrud explained that the goal is to create a culture of readers, and with Action 100 being in its seventh year, she and her fellow staff members are seeing the benefits of having students choose books that interest and excite them.

“On Friday, the fourth through sixth graders had great conversations about why a certain book was their favorite, and they enjoyed giving each other recommendations,” she said. “Our younger readers were excited to have guests come and read to them. Our students have great stamina for reading, and even our youngest students get into the fun of reading.”

“I Love to Read Week” lends parents a hand in keeping their children engaged in that next book, Johnsrud observed.

“We are trying to keep kids excited about reading, and parents can help by reading with their students, signing and checking their steps and practicing their goals at home,” she added. “We want to continue to create a partnership so that students can grow as readers.”

Johnsrud said, “Teachers enjoy celebrating our students’ success and hard work. It is so rewarding to see the students become excited about reading, to see them reach goals and grow as readers. This week is a great way to take a step back and see how far we’ve come.”

She also believes the students enjoy a break in routine and enjoy the staff celebrating them. “They’ve said that they like ‘that you can read,’ ‘that you can wear pajamas to school,’ and ‘that we can have fun with our friends and teachers,” Johnsrud added.

She remarked that the Action 100 program has shown itself to be effective in helping students reach their reading landmarks, and “I Love to Read Week” made certain that it remains useful.

“When you have a program that is in its seventh year, it may get a little stagnant, but we want to keep creating the culture of reading, keep parents in a partnership with what is happening at school, and we want everyone to know that if we put in the time and energy, we can do amazing things. We have already seen great successes, and we want to keep the momentum going. Thank you to our volunteers who come in and help make these days a success,” she concluded.