Children read their way to a bright tomorrow One girl's tally: 6 weeks, 161 books WEST COLUMBIA

August 18, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Eight-year-old Lauren Denmark has spent the past six weeks catching up on some reading. The book tally so far -- 161 and counting.

"I like reading because it's interesting," said Lauren, a student at Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia. "I like when it's different from reality."

Lauren is one of 24 Swansfield students who participated in a six-week summer session, part of the federally funded Chapter One program, for students in the first through third grades who need additional help with their reading and math skills.

The program has met three days each week for three hours a day and it finishes tomorrow.

"During the summer, children seem to lose a lot of what they've learned at school," said Pat Whittier, a Chapter One teacher at Swansfield Elementary School. "We wanted to see if this type of summer program would give them a leg up on the school year."

Ann Wood, a Chapter One assistant, said she's certain that Lauren's progress in reading this summer will pay off when she begins school Aug. 30.

"Her self-confidence has just blossomed," Mrs. Wood said. "When she starts school, she'll be ready to fly."

Chapter One programs operate in 10 county schools, but the $2,400 Swansfield program is the first to be held during the summer, Mrs. Whittier said.

When the program began, students set a goal for themselves to read 1,050 books in six weeks. By the fifth week, the students had already read 1,100 books.

"I'm very proud of them; they've put forth a monumental effort," Mrs. Whittier said. "We have quite a disparity of ability in the group, but they've all done a remarkable job."

George Towson, a parent volunteer with the class, said his 7-year-old daughter, Lauren, has shown improvement in her reading ability since the program began.

"Every evening she reads at least three or four books, and she's starting to read to her younger sister," Mr. Towson said.

"After she got out of the second grade, she didn't really have that much confidence to read a book, but now she's read so many it's built up her confidence," he said.

Although the intent of program is to improve the students' reading and math skills, the youngsters didn't spend all their time in the classroom.

During the six-week class the future third- and fourth-graders visited a Maryland National Bank branch and a McDonald's restaurant in Columbia, made ice cream and talked with county firefighters who brought along a fire engine.

"We tried to provide a lot of fun activities but with a lot of learning associated with them," Mrs. Whittier said. "Summer is an ideal time to do some unusual things you wouldn't do in the school year."

All activities included some built-in reading and math lessons. For example, when the students made ice cream, they put reading and math lessons to use by reading recipes and measuring ingredients.

Yesterday, the class took a field trip to the McDonald's restaurant in Harper's Choice. The children toured the kitchen facilities, went inside a walk-in freezer and saw three 75-gallon tanks of Coca-Cola syrup.

Cathy Bell, who owns the McDonald's, explained to the class why reading and math skills are required to get a job there. She said that potential employees need to be able to read to fill out job applications and to use the computers at the register.

The McDonald's trip ended with free pancakes for everyone.

Mrs. Whittier said the Chapter One summer program will be offered at Swansfield next year and may be expanded to other schools.

"We're trying to provide early intervention in time for the students to achieve success," she said.

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