Educators say that parents taking an active role in their child’s literacy is an important step to continuing the lessons of March is Reading Month.

Educators say that parents taking an active role in their child’s literacy is an important step to continuing the lessons of March is Reading Month.

Photo provided by Julie Grill


Eastpointe and Roseville schools celebrate March is Reading Month despite pandemic

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 24, 2021

 Guest readers will record several virtual book readings for Eastpointe and Roseville schools as part of March is Reading Month.

Guest readers will record several virtual book readings for Eastpointe and Roseville schools as part of March is Reading Month.

Photo provided by Julie Grill

EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — Encouraging literacy in students can be both challenging and important. This is doubly true in the age of COVID-19.

Both the Eastpointe and Roseville school districts are celebrating March is Reading Month, an annual national effort to help promote lifelong literacy in students. However, with programs such as guest readers and book fairs having additional difficulties due to the threat of spreading the virus, educators have had to get more creative in their means of reaching students.

“Generally in March, each elementary school has a scholastic book fair; that wasn’t an option this year,” explained Eastpointe Community Schools District Librarian Patrick Taylor. “While our return-to-learn plan does allow for a face-to-face or hybrid option for students, it doesn’t allow for outside people to come into the building.”

Julie Grill, the teacher at Kaiser Elementary School in Roseville heading up March is Reading Month efforts, said her district has had to think outside the box to still engage students while being safe.

“We normally have guest readers come into the buildings to read to the students. So we had people from the community record themselves reading a book so the students can watch them,” she said. “That way, we still have this connection to the outside community, and those people can come in and share with the students how important reading is to them and so forth.”

Taylor agreed that it is no less important to find ways to engage students, despite the difficulties.

“We couldn’t have a physical book fair, so I organized a districtwide online book fair that has been running since March 8,” he said. “You can click through and look through what the displays from an actual book fair would be like. In addition to that, each school has taken on their own initiative.”

Sometimes, this has meant reusing aspects of March is Reading Month that the districts didn’t get to fully implement last year due to the virus.

“Here at Kaiser, we ended up using the same program as last year. We are doing ‘get into the game and read’ as the theme again,” said Grill. “Each day, the students are given things to do. They might read a book with someone at home, wear a sports shirt to school, read a book on a certain topic. We’re also asking them to complete 20 of 31 of those activities that are listed on a calendar we give them. We have books and other prizes they can get, like coupons.”

Both districts have worked hard to make sure there is still accessible and engaging programming for March is Reading Month that keeps students and staff safe.

“With Forest Park, we have been collecting recorded read-alouds from community leaders,” said Taylor. “(State) Rep. Kevin Hertel did a live read with the school, for instance. On March 23, we (did) a Title I literacy night. At Crescentwood Elementary School, because of how things have happened last year, they continued their theme with the Olympics, so each classroom is decorated with a country competing in the Olympics, and the students are making reading logs, which they can use to earn prizes. At Bellview and Pleasantview elementary schools, they have programs where they earn ‘caught you being good’ tickets, where classrooms can earn them for things such as reading achievements.”

“We still have students dressing like their favorite book character; we still have opportunities for parents to read to their kids and so forth,” added Grill. “It’s been interesting trying to find ways to still connect with students while being safe, especially since we still have some students learning from home. We want them all to participate.”

Taylor said among the most difficult parts of trying to make sure students still get to experience programs such as March is Reading Month is the fact that every school has been working in different ways to function during the pandemic.

“I think trying to coordinate something districtwide has been difficult,” he remarked. “Each school has figured out their own way of doing things, and sometimes that doesn’t always mesh well when you’re trying to coordinate a districtwide program three-quarters of the way through the year.”

One of the most important things both districts have been doing is trying to make parents a more active part of their child’s literacy.

“I think parents can help by being excited themselves and taking an interest in reading or asking what is on their calendar that day,” said Grill. “We want to encourage kids to read, so parents expressing an interest is an important part.”

Taylor said the benefits of March is Reading Month can make a difference in the lives of young students.

“The purpose of March is Reading Month is to take the time to celebrate what it means to be lifelong readers and showcase why that’s important,” he said. “With elementary school and middle school students, they are in the most formative years of their life. We need to give them this mindset of being a lifelong reader from an early age.”