Ray Huard …. If ever there was a doubt that kids are eager to read, it was dispelled with the recent opening of a special reading room for Maryland Elementary School parents and their children.
Even before the books were unpacked, students at the Vista Unified School District school were piling in to get a peek at the “Reading Oasis” room, provided through a partnership between the United Way of San Diego County and the children’s book publisher Scholastic, Inc.
“As we were putting the book shelves together, kids were coming in, trying to open the boxes to get the books,” said Katie Sawyer, United Way director of philanthropy. “We’ve had students come by all week long, asking, ‘Can we come in and read?”
They can now, and they’ve got 1,500 new books, including about 200 in Spanish, thanks to a $10,000 grant the United Way received from the Red Nose Day Fund, a program of Comic Relief Inc. Only ten of the Red Nose Day $10,000 grants were awarded in the nation, Sawyer said.
“For the United Way to come in and create this for us is huge,” said Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Jaka. “Reading, for me, is a complete escape and I want all kids to appreciate that.”
Jaka said her mother was a teacher and a librarian, so she feels a personal connection to programs that encourage reading, a sentiment shared by Sawyer.
“My mom was a third grade teacher and I saw her out buying books for her class, so anytime we can get books in the classroom without the teacher paying for it, I’m over the moon,” Sawyer said.
Speaking to Maryland students before the Reading Oasis was officially opened, Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka urged them to “read as many books as you can.”
“All of this is going to help you be smarter and successful in the future,” Vodicka said.
Along with the books came five bean bag chairs, a colorful new carpet, three bookshelves and a listening center to create a reading center where parents and students can congregate.
“We figure, if the parents come into the room and see the books, it will encourage them to read to their children,” said Carmen Waszak, an English development resource teacher.
The idea is that students can drop in to read during recess or lunch period, or stop by with their parents.
“We’re trying to encourage our parents to come in, by part of their children’s education,” said Maryland Principal Carol LaBreche.
In addition to the reading room, the United Way also is providing online access to books for Maryland students and their families through its Club Connect Adopt-A-School Program.
“That’s a really cool bonus,” LaBreche said.
Parents can gain access to the online books by registering their children to attend Maryland through the Parent Portal on the school website, http://me.vistausd.org/.
The Reading Oasis will be open during much of the summer as part a free school Healthy Habits for Healthy Living Summer Academy, LaBreche said.
The five-week academy will feature a variety of activities for parents and their children from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday from June 13 to July 15. A free lunch will be available each day from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for children up to 18-years-old with free snacks for parents and caregivers.
Children’s activities will include math tutoring, small group reading, fitness warm-ups, soccer, orchestra camp, dance and a kindergarten readiness program.
Activities planned for adults include information on child development, family literacy, English as a second language, gardening and one-on-one consultations with community family support agencies.