Fun is a two-way experience for readers and their listeners

May 22, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Reading and writing together is building bridges between students at Sykesville Middle and Piney Ridge Elementary schools.

Once a month, the middle school students go to the neighboring school and read to kindergartners. The project, funded by a grant from the Nestle Co., gives children in the Reading is Fundamental program an opportunity for educational interaction

with older students.

It also provides the best in children's literature to the youngsters. Hundreds of free books go home with the kindergartners.

"They love to take the books home," said Anna Varakan, Piney Ridge reading teacher.

The older students pique the children's interest in the books.

"One-on-one helps them pay attention much longer," said Ms. Varakan. "The sixth-graders are so complimentary and give them constant feedback, which they can't get in a group with 24 others."

The cooperation is "good for both ends," she said. Margie Ader, the middle school teacher who accompanies the older students, said the project "gives my students a good feeling about themselves."

Robbie Ragusa, 5, walked timidly into the reading room at the elementary school Friday.

"Would you like one of the older boys to read you a story?" asked Ms. Varakan.

He broke into a smile and said, "I want Tommy," as he seated himself next to Tommy Franey, his sixth-grade friend.

Tommy's is a familiar face. He and several classmates have been going to the elementary school and reading to kindergartners since last fall.

"This is a really fun project," Tommy said. "I have been here before and I know which stories the kids like."

Tommy pulled double duty last week as he read "Will's Mammoth" to Robbie and another 5-year-old, Tony Grivakis.

"Both good listeners," Tommy said.

"He has a captive audience," said Ms. Varakan.

Tommy drew the children into the story as he wondered aloud what a mammoth was.

"It's a big elephant, like the one at the zoo," Tony said.

The sessions, which serve as community service projects for the older children, offer the younger children individual attention.

"It helps when someone reads to them," said Jason Foss, 12. "It helps them to understand the words quicker and maybe they will advance faster."

Jason said reading to his younger brother every night gives him "lots of practice." He asked Nathan Gibson, 5, to select a book from several spread across the table. Then, he launched into a spirited telling of "Jemima Puddle Duck" for the little boy. He pointed to the words so Nathan could follow along.

Nathan said he liked the story so much, he would take it home so his mother could read it to him again.

"I think this makes the children want to read more," said Elizabeth Barvir, 12.

After a few stories, the readers help the listeners write and illustrate a story. Nathan said he could do his own drawing but asked Jason for help with the writing.

"We try to select an activity which they will enjoy and which will help them to follow written directions," Ms. Varakan said. "Dictating a story makes them realize we can print everything we say."

Elizabeth helped Michael Meushaw, 5, write about his pet turtle.

L "My turtle is just like the one in the story," said Michael.

Ashley Ruane, 5, said she was drawing the dinosaurs she learned about from a book read by Danielle Rowley, 12.

"It is really nice to have someone read to me," she said.

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