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When it comes to reading, students go above and beyond

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SHIRLEY — On Thursday, June 3, Lura A. White Elementary School parents and students enjoyed a barbecue provided by the school cafeteria, followed by the annual “Books and Beyond” Awards ceremony, hosted by Principal Suzanne Mahoney, librarian Kathryn Lyon, and library assistant Lauren Dill. Physical education teacher Sue D’Amico, art teacher Elaine Nogueria and music teacher Marla Farrow also presented awards.

“Books and Beyond” is a national program that promotes student reading outside of school and the involvement of parents in their children’s reading. According to the nonprofit organization’s website, there is much data to suggest that an increase in reading improves reading scores.

A 1994 National Assessment of Educational Progress report revealed that students who reported watching at least four hours of television daily displayed lower average reading scores than their peers who watched less television each day. A 1996 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, “Reading Literacy in the U.S.,” concluded that parental involvement in reading dramatically increases children’s scores on reading comprehension, and a 1998 Committee on Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children suggested that providing time and materials to support daily independent reading that is of particular interest for individual students and beneath the students’ individual frustration levels help to consolidate the student’s capacity for independent reading.

The “Books and Beyond” program promotes all three of these strategies “by giving students the motivation and incentives to read for fun, thereby practicing their reading, developing their reading fluency, and increasing their exposure to a variety of stories and subjects.”

The huge success of the program at Lura A. White is largely due to the motivation of students and the efforts of Lyon and Dill, who provide students with lined pages on which they list the 15 books or groups of 20 pages (for chapter books) that they read or have read to them. Once each student and a parent or guardian have completed and signed each form, it is submitted to the school library and counted as a “zone.” As students complete each zone, their names are painted on the wall outside of the school library. The goal for students to earn a “gold” medal is to complete at least eight zones. Many teachers and other school personnel also participate, including reading specialists Jennifer Traverso and Elizabeth Foster.

School library volunteer Judy Stanislaw was also instrumental in the success of this year’s student reading marathon. “Had it not been for her, we couldn’t have done it,” said Lyon, as she presented Stanislaw with a hanging basket of flowers at the awards ceremony. “Mrs. Stanislaw was responsible for making sure that all of the books that were checked out got returned.”

“Books and Beyond” funding is made possible through the sales of books at the Shirley School District’s annual Book Fair, which is sponsored by the Shirley PTA. The PTA and its president, Ann Kahn, were also honored at the event.

The results for this year’s “Books and Beyond” program were:

The kindergarten students read 6,720 books, with student Maddie Margraf having filled 32 zones.

The first grade read 7,895 books. Student Rosalind Lupaczyk filled 60 zones.

The second grade read 5,635 books. Student Deran Quinty read 6,721 pages, or 22 zones; Lyanny Pinales read 6,418 pages, or the equivalent of 21 zones.

The third grade read 8,116 books. Student Danielle Jean filled 52 zones.

The fourth grade read 81,920 pages. Student Michele Woodland read 4,919 pages, the equivalent of 16 zones.