Students at Eastpointe and Roseville schools are  joining in the festivities for March is Reading Month,  a nationwide effort to improve literacy.

Students at Eastpointe and Roseville schools are joining in the festivities for March is Reading Month, a nationwide effort to improve literacy.

Photo provided by Joe Genest

Schools hit the books for March is Reading Month

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 15, 2019


EASTPOINTE/ROSEVILLE — Students across the country are picking up good books as they celebrate March is Reading Month.

The students attending Eastpointe and Roseville schools are participating in several programs that reinforce the annual monthlong initiative to increase literacy.

“Each building decides what they’re going to do. It lets us draw attention to learning how to read,” said Mark Blaszkowski, the deputy superintendent of Roseville Community Schools. “You need to be able to read, no matter what you do. Whether it’s reading an instruction manual on the job, reading a newspaper or just reading a novel for fun, reading is part of life.”

March is Reading Month is most strongly pushed in most districts at the elementary level. This is all the more true in Michigan due to the recent third-grade reading law, which will require that students who are a year or more behind their grade level in reading proficiency to repeat the third grade, with some possibilities for exemption from the requirement to repeat third grade.

“We focus on the elementary level because that is when kids learn how to read,” said Blaszkowski. “At higher grades, it’s reading to learn, not learning to read. The third-grade reading law is to ensure kids know how to read by grade three. By having the law, it focuses on early elementary reading skills. It allows the district to track their students’ reading level and try to get back on track if someone needs the extra help.”

Both school districts took on the challenge to improve literacy in creative ways.

“Bellview is doing a literacy-themed program featuring an escape room and a lot of literacy-themed games and activities,” said Eastpointe Community Schools Communications and Marketing Coordinator Caitlyn Kienitz. “Each school kind of does their own thing for March is Reading Month, but our principals and staff put some really fun and interesting things together.”

Roseville Community Schools settled on a monster theme for its students for March is Reading Month.

“We started off with all the students in an assembly at the start of the month,” said Kaiser Elementary School Principal Kelly Torpey. “We talked to them about the month, we sent them home with a calendar that had entries to give them challenges like reading with a flashlight, reading without stopping for 15 minutes, etc. We give out prizes at the end of the month for those who completed their calendars.”

“We are trying to bring awareness to reading through family-oriented activities at night and interesting things during the day,” said Steenland Elementary School Principal Charles Felker. “This includes a family read-in where families come and lay out blankets on the gym floor while we provide treats like milk and cookies. Everybody gets a goodie bag with a book, a bookmark and some tips for parents to help their kids read more at home.”

The students took on reading challenges and activities both in the classroom and at home.

“Twenty-five different people are coming in to read to the students, like local officials, parents, administrators from the district and school board members,” Torpey said. “We had an assembly with Karen and Darrin Brege. They are married, and she is an author and he is an illustrator, and they talked to the kids about creating a story and forming a plot and character and so forth.”

“We have people coming in and doing guest reading for the students. It’s nice to get some local heroes and figures in to help with reading,” said Felker. “We also got the husband-wife author/illustrator team (Karen and Darrin Brege) to come in, as well as Scott Bosek, author of “The Alligator Man,” to talk with the students about writing.”

The administrators said that reading is all the more important now that there are so many more alternate activities and distractions for kids.

“Nowadays, kids have so many things in their hands, we worry they don’t get a lot of time to read,” Torpey remarked. “We read to learn and gain information, but it also is for pleasure. We read to laugh and enjoy ourselves. It also lets families work together on reading and literacy. We want to teach kids and families different ways to encourage and enjoy reading and improve literacy.”

Blaszkowski said parents have to take an active role in their child’s reading education.

“I suggest parents read to their kids until they are in eighth grade every night,” he said. “This could be an article in the newspaper or a magazine, it could be a novel, or have them read back to you. It’s so important that kids hear the words in context and to hear them out loud.”

“The biggest thing we want parents to take away from March is Reading Month is that children need to be reading for a minimum of 20 minutes a day and see parents reading for at least that length of time as well,” added Felker. “It helps improve reading comprehension and fluency in reading. This means instead of stumbling over words or stopping at punctuation, they learn how what is on the page sounds like how people talk.”