That’s the number of books that rising fourth-grade Birdneck Elementary student Jae Roberson has read since school has been out for summer.
Schoolmate Athena Alexander has read 17 books in that same seven-week time span.
“I’ve read ‘Gingerbread Pirates,’ ‘Give a Pig a Blanket’ and right now I’m reading ‘Wacky Wednesday’ which is about wacky things that happen to this girl on Wednesdays,” Alexander, a rising second-grader, said.
Roberson and Alexander are two of 800 students enrolled in the school divison’s Title I Summer Slide program, which is now in its fifth year and is intended to engage students in reading and minimize learning loss during the summer months while children are out of school.
“We provide a fun, interactive literature curriculum, called Scholastic Lit Camp that also incorporates fun summer activities,” according to Lynn Hodges, a Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) Title I instructional specialist, who oversees all of the Title I Summer Slide camps offered at 12 schools across the city.
At Birdneck Elementary, each week starts with a campwide meeting in the library with all 50 children who attend the program.
“We give prizes for attendance because every day that they come in they put in their name in that little box on the bench and we draw names at random,” said Christina Brooks, a Summer Slide program coordinator at Birdneck who is a second-grade teacher at the school during the school year.
“The more you’re here, the more chances you have of winning” is Brooks’ mantra to encourage children to keep up their attendance so they don’t miss out on reading and literacy.
From their Monday morning gathering, students head to classrooms where their day is filled with reading and writing—that’s after a breakfast meal provided by the school division’s Office of Food Services.
“In the classrooms it’s all literacy based,” Brooks said. “They do a lot of whole group reading, shared reading, or read books individually based on their reading level. They also do a lot of writing, either in journals or by responding to prompts based on a book or just something that they did over the weekend.”
Third-grade teacher Megan Peterman says she knows that the program is working because she can see students’ excitement when they focus on a different book each day – and it’s typically one that they have not read before.
“We also introduce new vocabulary, do a writing piece that goes along with the book, or have them write in their journals,” she says as she flips through one child’s book that has a letter to his mom about how much he is enjoying the Summer Slide program.
A few doors down, since all of the classes are in the same hallway, rising first-graders are busily tacking on paper legs to their moose artwork. Glued on each moose’s tummy is a short answer to the writing prompt “If You Give a Moose a Marshmallow,” which is the title of the book that they read earlier that day.
Their answers to that prompt are sentences like “If you give a moose a marshmallow, he will ask for hot chocolate,” or “If you give a moose a marshmallow, he will ask will ask for more.” Those answers were to be read at the end-of-the-year program for parents, which was scheduled to start momentarily.
At the conclusion of the program for their parents, students each received two books, a boxful of school supplies and a bag filled with books and activities based on their individual grade levels.
“We give them a lot of materials to take home to hopefully carry them until school starts,” Brooks said.
Brooks also says another way that they hope students continue to keep up their literacy skills is by visiting Virginia Beach Public Libraries, one of the program partners which visits once a week.
During their visits, library staff treat students to fun lessons all based on books. Library staff also assist students in logging the number of books they have read each week. Thus far, the 50 students at Birdneck have read 1,250 books, according to logs. Divisionwide, students in the Summer Slide program have read 23,641 books.
The library also provides fun incentives such as books, games and coupons to local businesses that have family activities.
Another partner is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), which visits twice during the four weeks the program is in session.
“One of MOCA’s visit was based on the children’s book “Beautiful Oops” which is about a story how when you think you’ve made a mistake, you still can turn it into something beautiful,” Brooks said.
After reading the book with students, MOCA guest artists illustrated the book’s life lesson by taking crumbled paper and with ink creating fun stamps.
Every student received a copy of the book.
The only downfall of the camp, in Roberson’s opinion, is that she has to wake up early every morning during the summer.
“But I still like it because it is going to help me be a better reader in fourth-grade.”