School marquees across Virginia Beach are encouraging students to pick up a few good books during their summer break.
There is a reason for that. Just ask Elijah Stevens, a rising first-grader at Diamond Springs Elementary.
“Reading helps you learn,” he said.
And continuing to learn during the summer months by keeping students engaged in reading and other activities is the goal of the school division’s Title I Summer Slide Reading Program.
“It is a chance for the kiddos to stay, kind of, in routine for the school year – to keep up those good habits of reading and have a little bit of fun as well,” said Meghan Mosher, math specialist and Summer Slide program coordinator at Parkway Elementary.
This is Sania McMillan’s second year attending the program at Birdneck Elementary and she is a fan.
“There are good teachers, you get to read, you get to learn, and you get to see your friends a lot of times,” McMillan said she told classmates to encourage them to attend the program.
McMillan also likes a challenge.
“If you read easy books, you should go harder,” she advised. “If you read harder books then you’ll learn more and if you read harder books it will be easier to read. Then you can read hard books over and over again so they get easier.”
Reading over and over and over again is exactly what Summer Slide program teachers and coordinators want students to do.
They also are engaged in STEM and makerspace activities, arts and crafts, and visits by special guests from organizations like the Virginia Beach Public Library, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
Mosher even arranged for the Southland Dairy Farmers to visit Parkway Elementary with a dairy cow named Violet, who was joined by dairy farmer Amanda Griffith.
“They bring in a whole milking system and they teach the kids about the nutritional value of milk and where milk comes from.” Mosher said. “They drink milk every morning for breakfast. It gives them some real-world experiences.”
Rayani Jones, a rising fourth-grader at Williams Elementary, thinks the Summer Slide program offers the perfect mix of experiences.
“It’s very fun and educational at the same time,” she said. “We do a lot of activities: Homophone bingo, calligraphy, plays, skits, animal research, bookmarks, MOCA, library prizes, TumbleBooks, the robot dance – that’s my favorite.”
“They’re having a great time,” said Stacy Lupia, first-grade teacher and Summer Slide coordinator at Diamond Springs Elementary. “It’s structured but it’s not as structured as we are in the classrooms, and it really does keep them engaged in the reading and learning process all summer so we don’t see them slide as much.”
“We have a STEM station, a concept of word station, a writing station, a technology station and a reading station,” continue Lupia. “They really seem to enjoy all of the different activities.”
“It’s really just to encourage that love of reading. That’s what we’re trying to do,” said Megan Petermann, third-grade teacher and Summer Slide program coordinator at Birdneck Elementary. “Some of the teachers are doing Reader’s Theatre and the students are kind of forgetting that they are actually reading. But they’re doing something fun and they all have a speaking part. It’s another way for them to read and to learn.”
Koriya Morris, a rising third-grader at Newtown Elementary, is excited about her part in a play that she and her classmates are preparing to share with parents and other invited guests as a culminating activity for the last day of the program.
“I have three parts because I’m an elf,” she said. “All I do is sing. I don’t have to hold anything. I fix the reindeers. I get them ready.”
Morris’ classmate in the Summer Slide program, La’Prince Fowler, also enjoys all the activities and “art and library time,” he said. He also recognizes that his time in the program is important because it is preparing him for third grade.
“The more I read, it helps me read better and better,” he explained.
Adajah Wilson expressed a similar thought.
“The more books you read, the faster you become a better reader,” said the Williams Elementary rising fifth-grader. “Ms. Acuna said if somebody is reading to you and you follow along, you can be a better reader that way, too.”
Librarians from the Virginia Beach Public Library read to younger students at Parkway Elementary where rising first-grader Ely Formilien shared what he likes best about the Summer Slide program.
“I like reading. I like playing outside…and all the activities. I like everything! The last thing is that I like when I get to come here again tomorrow. That’s my favorite thing.”