Program turns page on summer reading at Sedgefield (Full story)

Charlotte Observer

  • – photographed by CRYSTAL O’GORMAN- Students pose with books and Big Read Event presenters: back, from left, the presenters are Sedgefield Principal Ivy Gill, ALP Director Alison Houser, Simplicity Organizers owner Laurie Martin, WCNC-TV news anchor Sonja Gantt, Simplicity Organizers’ Blair Kingsbury Oliver, Sedgefield literacy coach Sophia Crawford and Brennan Sheare, Promising Pages’ Erma the Bookworm.

Laurie Martin, owner of Simplicity Organizers, reads aloud as 458 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students sit legs-crossed and absorbed by “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!” by Dr. Seuss.

The reading was part of Sedgefield Elementary School’s Big Read, on June 10. The event celebrates the collection of 6,250 books for the students’ home library and promotes the significance of summer reading to maintain grade-level literacy.

The books were donated to the school through a joint community effort in accordance with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s Give Five, Read Five initiative. The initiative, in its second year, urges parents, business leaders and community members to donate five books to local schools. The goal is for students to have at least five books each to take home and read over summer.

According to the Department of Public Instruction, low-income students with no access to summer reading material lose 2.5 years in literacy by fifth grade, when compared to peers who do have access.

Sophia Crawford, literacy coach at Sedgefield Elementary, said the books will make a difference to students.

“We have students who are significantly behind and those who are significantly above grade-level expectations,” Crawford said. “Based on end-of-grade assessments last year for students in grades three to five, we are definitely a school in need. We had about 30 percent of our students at EOG reading proficiency.”

During the Big Read event, students squealed with excitement in their readiness for summer reading. They took turns standing and shouting out the titles of their favorite books, including “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” during the assembly.

School officials voiced an interest in having books donated for their students’ summer reading during a school meeting in March, because they were concerned about students’ access to books during the summer.

The community’s response was more than officials imagined.

“This means that our school and community partners see our vision for reading, and they feel that it is important to invest in our students and their future… (it) shows our students that reading matters and we love them enough to give them books to read,” said Crawford.

Each student at Sedgefield, a Title 1 school, was able to take home 13 or more new and gently used books thanks to the collective effort of Augustine Literacy Project, Dilworth Elementary, Park Road Baptist Church, Park Road Montessori School, Sedgefield United Methodist Church, Simplicity Organizers and Keystone Montessori School.

Simplicity Organizers partnered with Augustine Literacy Project, a nonprofit literacy tutoring program, to donate 2,500 of the books collected for Sedgefield.

“Simplicity is a professional organizing company dedicated to simplifying homes and lives,” said Martin.

“Part of our job is to help our clients find wonderful places to donate their unused or unloved belongings. Our clients have an easier time letting go of their belongings when they are going to a good cause.”

Sedgefield’s cause was near and dear to Martin. Inspired by her mother, a reading specialist at Vandalia Elementary in Greensboro, Martin’s company teamed with Augustine Literacy Project to collect 4,500 books; 2,000 of those were donated to Vandalia Elementary in honor of her mother’s birthday April 9. Those remaining were donated to Sedgefield.

Sedgefield was recommended as the ideal recipient by the Augustine Literacy Project, whose volunteer tutors work one-on-one with some Sedgefield students who have reading difficulties.

“We teach children how to read so they can discover the joy of getting lost in a book,” said ALP Director Alison Houser. “It is rewarding to see the community rally around a school and enable Sedgefield students to go home for the summer with an armful of books.”

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