Reading literacy is king (or queen) at Eugene Field Elementary. The school’s teachers and staff place a high priority on encouraging students to read and run a literacy program called STARS — “Students Today Are Reading Successfully.”
“Learning to read is the foundation of the entire educational process and though it comes easily for many kids, it is really challenging for some,” said Principal Jennifer Hannan. “Keeping all kids engaged in and positive about learning to read is an intentional and focused team effort at Eugene Field.”
To make the STARS program interesting and fun, the school adopts a new theme each year. This year’s theme is “Royal Readers.” Every student was issued a paper crown and gets to add “jewels” each time he or she reaches their monthly reading goal. To continue the royal spirit, the school has monthly celebration days when staff and students dress in royal costumes.
“The different themes keep the program exciting and appeal to different interests,” said Hannan. “Last year was “Super Heroes Read” and students dressed like super heroes on the celebration days.”
“We want reading to be a WANT to, not a HAVE to,” said Marie Coxen, the school’s title reading specialist. “Our students are encouraged to read both at school and at home with their families.”
To make the school environment conducive to reading, each classroom has reading centers stocked with books that appeal to the particular grade level’s interest. The centers are made cozy with beanbag chairs and area rugs.
The Community Helps Out
The program has a tremendous amount of community support. Between 20 and 25 mostly retired adults come every Monday morning and spend time reading with students in grades kindergarten through second. Middle school and high school students also come and read as part of elective career exploratory courses.
“The kids are so excited to read to our volunteers, they really step it up,” said Hannan. “Even kids who sometimes have trouble sitting still and focusing want to impress our adult readers.”
The school has seen positive results.
“Both practice and enthusiasm for reading improve scores and we’ve certainly seen that here,” Hannan said. “We have seen a 20 percent drop in the number of students needing extra reading support.”