Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Word of mouth boosts reading

SHADY HILLS

Chris Ohling admits it: Reading doesn't excite him.

"I'm lazy," the Crews Lake K-8 eighth-grader said.

He's definitely not a fan of his two-period daily intensive reading block, which he's required to take until he achieves grade level on the FCAT reading exam. It gets in the way of taking a physical education elective, where he'd much rather be.

But a smile crept across Chris' face as he huddled in the kindergarten wing of his school, 5-year-old Ethan King beside him, so they could read together.

They were both part of an initiative aimed at helping the school's struggling older readers improve their abilities, while also exposing the school's youngest students to early literacy skills. It's a project that came together through teachers brainstorming for ways to find meaningful, academic ways to pull their two schools — Shady Hills Elementary and Crews Lake Middle — into one.

"I like it," said Chris, 13. "When you're reading, they can understand what you're saying, and it gives you a good feeling."

Ethan, who had wrested his partner's book from his hands so he could read it himself, said simply, "I like Chris." He then returned to the pages of Shades of Black, with Chris helping with the big words.

Intensive reading teacher Natasha Salagaras said her students are "way below their level," and generally feel uncomfortable reading aloud.

"They never got their confidence to achieve," Salagaras said.

Her students picked elementary level books they could read without problems, but they still felt nervous about the prospect of possibly making a mistake. After seeing the little children listening intently, hanging on their words (not to mention on their shoulders), the middle schoolers realized they could do this.

The kindergarteners didn't judge them. They clamored for the chance to be near them.

"They're very excited to have them come and read to them," kindergarten teacher Maureen Murray said. "Everybody wants to do it."

Seventh-grader Katherine Luckson said she's "really far behind" in her reading level, and found that reading to the kindergarteners helped improve her confidence and skills, such as word identification. It also forced her to overcome her shyness.

Sitting in the kindergarten hallway, Katherine held up the book In My Garden so 5-year-old Alynna Worth could see — just like a teacher would — and asked several questions about the story.

"It's pretty nice," Katherine said, between books with Alynna, who shyly nodded in agreement.

When Crews Lake first became a K-8 school this fall, some parents worried about having their little children in the same school with near-high schoolers. The give and take between the kids in the hall, though, was patient, calm and cheerful.

Chris laughed as Ethan demanded to read, punctuating his narrative frequently with "What's that?" Chris said he has an older brother who would "always pick on me and stuff." So his approach with Ethan was "to do things he didn't do."

"It's real fun," added eighth-grader Andrew Ambrogio. "I think they look up to us."

Thirty minutes passed quickly, and the students had to return to class. Katherine grabbed hands and guided a couple of kindergarteners to their room, while seventh-grader Cloe McTeague waved. "Bye, guys," she said. "You did awesome."

Back in their own upstairs classroom, the students reviewed the session with Salagaras.

Most of them were pleased. They felt better on this second time around, less nervous than the first time out. They enjoyed the kindergarteners' attentiveness and interest.

When one boy expressed annoyance that his assigned student wasn't the best listener, his classmates joked that could have been him sometimes, too.

Salagaras urged the group not to let such things get them down. Whether it seems like it or not, she told them, the kids are listening and learning right along with them.

"It's working both ways," she said. "It's an awesome process to watch."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Word of mouth boosts reading 09/24/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 7:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Officials release names of those aboard plane that landed in St. Pete neighborhood

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — Officials released the names of the two people aboard the plane that made an emergency landing Wednesday on a neighborhood street in south St. Petersburg.

  2. Spencer: 'A better and more beautiful world if people like me were in power'

    K12

    In the a small theater crammed with cameras, Richard Spencer and a small group of his coordinators clashed with reporters as his controversial speech in the Phillips Center drew near Thursday.

    A crowd gathers ahead of Richard Spencer's appearance at the University of Florida on Oct. 19, 2017. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  3. Analysis: George W. Bush's unmistakable takedown of Trumpism - and Trump

    Columns

    For the last nine years, George W. Bush has largely stayed out of presidential politics; he declined to criticize his successor, Barack Obama, and he chose not to endorse but largely ignored President Donald Trump. While Mitt Romney and others spoke out publicly against Trump, Bush stayed above the fray.

    That …

    Former President George W. Bush speaks at a forum sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute in New York on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. [Seth Wenig | Associated Press]
  4. Fennelly: Even frustrated Bucs fans hold out hope

    Blogs

    Many fans wrote back when I threw out an all-points the other day, asking if Bucs fans are perpetually in a state of expecting the worst.

    Bucs fans cheer during a preseason game against the Washington Redskins in August at Raymond James Stadium.
  5. 'The Walking Dead' marks 100 episodes with Easter eggs in Season 8 premiere

    Blogs

    The hit zombie series has come a long way since Rick Grimes woke up from a coma and entered a post-apocalyptic world overrun with the undead.

    Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead Season 8.