Bringing to life the once upon a time

May 6, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

McKnight students read picture books to rapt preschoolers

A group of preschoolers sit and listen to McKnight Middle School eighth-grader Kiet To read ‘How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?’ April 14 at Hillcrest Early Childhood Center. By Tim Pfarr

Reading aloud takes a lot of practice, and students in Zer Vue’s reading class at McKnight Middle School are getting a lot of it.

About 40 of her students split into pairs and read aloud to classes at nearby Hillcrest Early Childhood Center.

It went so well that Hillcrest officials asked the students to return each month.

“The first reading went better than expected for most students,” said Vue, whose students are two or more years behind in their reading abilities. “They were nervous about reading to others, and then after the initial experience, they felt relieved and excited to do it again.”

Each student read a children’s book to a class of between five and 12 preschoolers, concluding each story by asking the younger students basic reading-comprehension questions.

The preschoolers and the middle school students both enjoy the now-monthly activity.

“It boosts my confidence to read to little kids,” McKnight eighth-grader Kathy Ton said. “Maybe when I’m older and I’m giving a presentation I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable because I had this experience.”

Ton read “A Good Day,” by Kevin Henkes, when she visited Teresa Rishel’s preschool class April 14. After reading each page, she took time to show the pictures to the preschoolers, who sat around her in a circle.

The students choose their own books to read, selecting from books from local libraries or books Vue or the classroom paraprofessional bring into class.

Ton said the library was helpful when it came to picking a good book to read aloud.

“I went through a bunch of books and looked at which ones are colorful with good pictures and have words that they can see too,” she said.

Eighth-grader Kiet To joined Ton in Rishel’s class April 14. He read “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” by Jane Yolen.

He said the key in picking a book was finding one that young children find interesting and can understand.

“I looked through the book, and looked through the detail and kind of imagine that I’m a kid,” To said. “What do I want to hear?”

Vue said the short monthly field trips to Hillcrest have been a year in the making. She wanted to start the program during the 2009-2010 school year, but she was new to the school and didn’t have the know-how to make it a reality.

However, after networking and coordinating with McKnight Principal Mary Merritt, the program came together. It is now going wonderfully, Vue said.

As they continue their monthly visits, students may add small activities to the series of questions they ask after reading.

“I wanted to reintroduce kids to the love of books,” Vue said about her students. “It reassures them that they can build confidence. We do as much as we can to build fluency and confidence.”

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