Reading Corps helps students stay sharp during summer

Published on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 by Brandy Kiger Shreve

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School may be out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for the kids at the Blaine Boys & Girls Club to stop learning. Literacy is high on the list of priorities for the after-school club, and they’ve recruited a volunteer from the Northwest Washington Reading Corps (NWWRC) to help keep students’ minds sharp throughout the summer months.

“We’re trying to prevent that brain drain that happens between June and September,” said Blaine Boys & Girls Club director 
Diana Oplinger. “If we can help them get ahead, or at the very least maintain the skills they have, then they’ll be better prepared for the coming school year.”

Sara Rosso, a graduate from Western Washington University, was hired by the club after she applied to work with AmeriCorps and her application was submitted to the reading corps program.

Rosso has been laying the groundwork for the summer program since October by working with students in the school system and providing extra homework and reading help at the club during Power Hour through high-yield learning activities that challenge and engage the students in a fun and meaningful way.

“We’re literacy advocates,” Rosso said. “So, we’re primarily focused on reading and writing. We play games like spelling hopscotch, where the grid is drawn like a boggle board and they have to spell different words as they jump or we play charades and they have to answer by writing on a whiteboard. It’s fun and exciting, but they’re still learning and developing skills.”

In addition to physical activities, Rosso is helping students develop fluency in the written word by reading aloud with primary students and helping older students learn to write through a pen pal program that connects them with members of other Boys & Girls Clubs across the county. “It’s been a really fun way to get them writing. They really like to write about their favorite things and their siblings,” Rosso said. “Hopefully, we will be able to arrange to have a party so that they can all meet eventually.”

The NWWRC is an AmeriCorps program that helps to improve the reading abilities of K–6 students across northwest Washington by tutoring struggling readers and creating effective collaborations among schools, families, community members, national service, business and state partners. “Even 15 to 20 minutes a day of extra help can make a difference,” Rosso said. “Especially for primary students. They really need to have someone reading to them or listening to them read out loud every day.”

Traditionally volunteers from the corps work in school systems, particularly those with Title I status, but in the past few years, they’ve broadened their reach and have branched out into such community organizations as the Boys & Girls Clubs, Oplinger said. When the subject was broached, she thought it was a great fit for the Blaine club’s goals.

“I just went to various folks and asked if they would help us fund the position,” Oplinger said. “And since the club doesn’t operate all day during the school year, we share Sara with the school system at no cost. It’s been good for them to have the extra help, and good for us because we’re creating a bridge between the schools and the club and are able to provide continuity and reinforce what they are learning at school.”

Oplinger and Rosso want to take that bridge a step further, and will be hosting a literacy night at the club on July 19 from 4 to 6 p.m.

“We really want families to be involved with the club,” Rosso said. “It’s an open house and we will have stations and activities that will focus on literacy so they can get an idea of what we’re doing here and what the reading corps is all about.”

For more information about the Blaine Boys & Girls Club literacy night, call 360/332-3008.