School offers summer way to read

July 12, 1998|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Daniel Gorham wants to read books about Curious George. His sister, Katrin, is seeking any stories that are funny.

On Monday mornings, they need look no further than the library shelves -- not at the public library, but at their neighborhood school.

For the second year, Oliver Beach Elementary School has been opening the doors of its library one morning each week for students to come in and check out books -- ensuring a steady supply of children's books in a neighborhood at least 20 minutes from the closest Baltimore County public library.

"With our community located so far from a public library, opening up our school library to the children in the summer seemed like a great way to help them keep reading," said Richard Fox, principal of the 330-student elementary on the county's eastern edge. "Why should the books sit here unused when they could be put to good use?"

County school officials believe Oliver Beach is the only elementary in the system to run such a program.

At 10 a.m. Mondays, a stream of children begins filing into Oliver Beach's library, returning the books they have read and borrowing a new batch. The library remains pretty full until it closes at noon, with more than 75 children visiting most weeks.

"I like coming to school to find books to read," said Katrin, who is entering the fifth grade at Oliver Beach.

Many -- including Katrin, 10, and Daniel, 8 -- find a comfortable spot to read a book or two.

Keeping the school library open for six summer Monday mornings costs less than $1,500, Fox said. The money comes from a grant Oliver Beach receives from the county school system to improve student achievement.

Media specialist Susan Dobry is helped by parent Jody Romadka and two middle school students who volunteer to reshelve books and sign in students.

"I think this is just a great idea," said Romadka, who brings her son, Bobby, a third-grader, to check out books each week. "Last year was such a success, and it seems like even more children are coming in each week this year."

Though Oliver Beach is far from a county library, many students still participate in the public library system's summer reading program.

"I like doing both," said fifth-grader Daniel Sines, 10, who enjoys books about war and "Star Wars." "I like reading a lot in the summer."

To encourage participation at Oliver Beach, the school set up a "Read at the Beach" summer challenge, calling on students to read a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. At least half of the students are expected to visit before the program's last checkout day July 20, the principal said.

Students bring in slips confirming that they did the required reading to receive small prizes such as sun visors and coupons for free french fries, Dobry said. Weekly drawings are held for such bigger prizes as books and plastic beach balls.

"The great thing about this activity is that we have nothing to do with any assignments or homework," Dobry said, as she handed out pairs of plastic sunglasses to children who had completed their week's worth of reading.

"This summer is all about one thing -- encouraging students to read for fun. I think that's the most important thing we can do over the summer."

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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