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Building More Than Bonds

Upsurge in Boys’ Literacy Skills and Interest after Summer Club

Summer is long gone but two sixth-grade boys are enjoying its lasting effects.

Andy Gomez and Keyon Williams participated in a weekly summer book club with three other students from Mayfield Intermediate School. Four teachers volunteered as sponsors, including Reading Specialist Sandra Reynolds, who initiated the club.  

Andy said that participating in the club “made me want to read. Now sixth grade seems like it might be a good year to learn some stuff.” And learning is what he’s been doing. Andy’s literacy skills have improved dramatically since last spring, according to test results from his current language arts teacher Rodney Jordan.

Last year Andy didn’t like to read “but I knew I needed to get better at it,” he said. That’s why he agreed to participate when Mrs. Reynolds invited him to join the six-week summer reading club.

Her idea for the club was to create “an authentic reading experience outside of school that mirrored what adults do.” For Reynolds, that means reading a book by her backyard pool most days of the summer. She invited the students and sponsors to join her there for the book club. She thought the pool setting, promise of swimming time and pizza would convince students to attend.

But both Andy and Keyon said it was mainly the camaraderie that kept them coming each week.

 “I got to know some new people,” Andy said. Keyon added, “There’s not a lot of people around in my neighborhood in the summer and I wanted to do something fun,” he said.

Keyon also joined the group “so my reading fluency could get better.” His literacy skills have also shown dramatic improvement since last spring, according to his language arts teacher Cyndy Mattia.

The book the group read also hooked them in, said Reynolds. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos follows the adventures of middle-schooler Joey who gets into mischief at home and school. “He acted a little bit nasty,” Keyon said, “It was funny.”

Andy liked the book so much, in the first week of school this year he checked out the sequel from Mrs. Reynolds’ classroom library.

Luke Krizmanich, fifth grade teacher and club co-sponsor, said Andy and
Keyon greeted him the first day back at school talking about the book. Two
other boys from the club, who now attend Metz, used to read the upcoming
chapter together over speakerphone prior to the next meeting.

“Spending time with kids outside the realm of school lets you see who they really are,” Krizmanich said. Parents and guardians were appreciative, he said, adding that one of the parents provided snacks for the boys each week.

Fifth grade teacher Joan Masterson also helped sponsor the club. As a former swim club coach, she taught some of the children swimming strokes.

Reynolds sponsored a similar club for boys in the summer several years ago, but it was based in the school and culminated in a field trip to Washington D.C. . She believes capturing the attention of boys with great books and small groups offers opportunities for them to experience a book like lifelong readers do.

“Boys tend to lose interest in reading as they enter middle grades. It is important to expose them to engaging literature to maintain the reading momentum of the elementary years,” she said.

Or, as Keyon stated: “The club changed my attitude about reading. Now I like to read for fun.”

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