Caverna summer bookmobile

Caverna summer bookmobile

Reaching out for reading
Caverna Elementary's summer reading program lures kids with free books
 
Kentucky School Advocate
July/August 2017
 
By Madelynn Coldiron
Staff writer 
Caverna Independent reading interventionist Sherri Gilpin reads along with a family around their kitchen table during one of the program’s home visits. It was a hot, humid June day and a few kids at the Plantation House Apartments in Horse Cave gathered around in the parking lot in front of their building; a few minutes later, they were joined by a couple more children of varied ages, and then another group streamed out, plus a few parents.

It wasn’t the chime of an ice cream truck that drew them, however.

The attraction was what Caverna Elementary assistant principal Fin Burton and reading interventionist Sherri Gilpin were unloading from Gilpin’s pickup truck: milk crates and boxes filled with new and used books.
 
Caverna Independent reading interventionist Sherri Gilpin reads along with a family around their kitchen table during one of the program’s home visits; clockwise from lower left, Brooke Conrad, Gilpin, Addison Ramsey, Peighton Conrad, Lyric Ramsey and Presley Ramsey. 
 
“It helps them – they love reading,” said parent Ashley Meredith, who watched as her three children – kindergartener, and third- and fifth-graders – eagerly plucked the books of their choice from the boxes. 

It was an impromptu stop for Caverna Elementary’s summer “bookmobile,” which is stationed on Thursdays at Horse Cave City Park, where the free books are spread out on picnic tables for children to choose from.

“If you give students a choice, they’re going to want to read,” Burton said. With the flexibility to choose their own book, he added, “they’re more engaged, they’ve got ownership of it.”
Caverna Independent school board Chairman Wayne Hatcher helps his granddaughter Rebecca Piercy sort through the reading possibilities at the Horse Cave City Park, where the district set up its mobile summer reading program. On the final day of the summer reading program, which runs the month of June, Caverna Independent school board Chairman Wayne Hatcher, who pastors a church near the Horse Cave City Park, stopped by with his granddaughter, Rebecca Piercy. The precocious third-grader picked out several Junie B. Jones books.

“I’m excited that the elementary is doing this,” Hatcher said. “Anything that would encourage children to read, because if a person doesn’t learn to love reading at an early age, they may not ever.”
 
Caverna Independent school board Chairman Wayne Hatcher helps his granddaughter
Rebecca Piercy sort through the reading possibilities at the Horse Cave City Park,
where the district set up its mobile summer reading program. 

Brandon Whitlaw, who brought his two daughters to the park to pick out books, said, “It’s nice to have something for the kids to do besides iPods and video games. It keeps their minds sharp and keeps the brain cells going.” Fifth-grader Rebecca Whitlaw chose a Dork Diaries book, adding, “I want the whole set.”

Besides Thursday mornings at the park, the program partnered with Barren County’s public library, which stationed its bookmobile at McDonald’s in Cave City on Tuesdays. Caverna students were encouraged to sign up for its digital access library cards, through which they could download library books to their electronic devices. McDonald’s was chosen as a hub for this facet of the Caverna Elementary program because it has Wi-Fi, but the school also offers its free hard-copy books there as well.

Some of the digital books are available in audio versions and some also are interactive. “We have to find ways to reach our kids and this is the way most of our kids read today, using technology,” Burton said.

Caverna Elementary Principal Tina Southwood said money from the community financed the summer reading project – $3,000 total from groups like the Rotary and Lions clubs, and individuals. “We also solicited donations of used books, even for the kids in our (extended school services) summer program,” she said, adding that the school is grateful to the community for the help. The in-school classes are yet another aspect of the summer reading program.

The children reached through this project have few if any books in their homes, Southwood said, “and that’s pretty true with a lot of our families.”

Heading home
Home visits are another phase of the program, with the school lining up 10 participating families, some with multiple children. The visits were designed to help students who are struggling readers and whose parents are supportive of the efforts, Gilpin said.

“The bookmobile is great, but going into the homes and making that connection with them has the most impact,” Burton said. The participants, like those in the other facets of the program, also get free books that are tailored to their interests.

Brittany Robertson said her son Matthew’s reading skills have improved with Gilpin’s visits. The third-grader “has been reading more and he’s more excited about it,” she said.

During the visits, Gilpin reads with the children, using strategies to improve their comprehension, and giving parents tips on how to help. She also encourages students to write based on what they’ve read. She visits each family once a week for sessions of 30–45 minutes.

Program’s future
Inspired by the quick, spur-of-the-moment trip to the apartment complex, the Caverna Elementary team is already figuring out ways to replicate that experience next summer, to reach children who don’t have transportation to the park or public library. Gilpin said she’d also like to use the books kids read as a springboard for summer field trips – a book about baseball might lead to a trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum, for example.

She said she’s looking forward to measuring the results of this first-year program, which reached about 50 students. Testing early in the school year should show whether these students escaped some of the “summer slide” that normally shows up in assessment results.
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