Reading Activities Engage Students, Reinforce Skills

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Theodore Roosevelt students get cozy with blankets and stuffed animals as they listen to stories of compassion, trust and other meaningful messages.

From guest authors to school-wide read-ins, there’s a whole lot of reading activities taking place in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District. The ongoing efforts enhance what is learned in the classroom and help reinforce a lifelong love of books.

At James H. Vernon School, fourth-graders were captivated by the history of the Culper Spy Ring and the Revolutionary War when Stephen Taylor, father of Vernon School students Andrew and Christian, who are in fourth and third grade respectively, came to the school to talk about his book, The Ghosts of Raynham Hall, the first novel of The Watcher of Time series.

Raynham Hall, a museum located at 20 West Main St., Oyster Bay, was the home of Robert Townsend, one of the key spies who helped General George Washington win the Revolutionary War. Taylor showed slides of authentic letters written by General George Washington to members of the spy ring and explained how spy codes and the use of invisible ink helped the general advance in the war. Students, who are studying American history in social studies, had fun deciphering codes, looking at history books on the subject, listening to Taylor read excerpts from the book, and asking him questions about the research and writing process.

Stephen Taylor, author of The Ghosts of Raynham Hall, the first novel of The Watcher of Time series, calls on a student to decipher a spy code.

“I like to do the research more than anything else,” Taylor said, “because you get to learn about all the things that happened in history. As a person from England, I was fascinated to find out that Oyster Bay was so instrumental in the War of Independence. Without the spy ring, there is an argument to say that America wouldn’t have become an independent country in 1776. It could have been that Britain would own part of America still or that France would own part of it. In fact, without George Washington, we may not have two-term presidents.”

On writing skills, Taylor advised, “Writing is very challenging. It is impossible to get it right the first time. It takes patience and practice. First, get all your ideas down on paper, check your punctuation, then edit it, and then you can see how the sentences could change.” He added, “There are different ways to write something and more elegant ways to say something. Make sure it reads correctly then read it aloud. If it sounds good, it’s likely to be good.”

In another reading event, sixth-grade students created picture books as a library project by researching a topic of their choice using informational text, according to library media specialist Christine Parente. Once the books were completed, each third-grade class visited a sixth-grade class during library skills where the sixth-graders took turns reading to small groups of third- graders. The books are currently on display in the library.

“One book called Modern Art by sixth-graders Joey LaRosa and Luke Aasheim compares modern art with realistic art and highlights some of the famous modern artists of the 20th Century,” Parente said. “Another book, Pumpkin the Basset Hound by Georgie Willard and Alexandra Flores, follows a fictional story about a puppy named Pumpkin while incorporating facts about the breed throughout the narrative.”

James H. Vernon sixth-grader Jack Iocolano reads the picture book he authored to third-grade students.

Other topics include sports figures, such as baseball great Sandy Koufax and surfer Bethany Hamilton; animals, health and nutrition, historic figures, including Rosa Parks, Helen Keller and Abraham Lincoln; and events, such as the demise of the Titanic and Hurricane Harvey.

Parente said the third-graders were very excited to have the “authors” read to them and were impressed that they had researched, written and illustrated the books on their own.
This week, Vernon School kicks off its Pick a Reading Partner (PARP) campaign in which students commit to reading at least 20 minutes per day with a reading partner and participate in various reading activities throughout the week. This year’s theme is “Go for the Gold….Read!” in honor of the 2018 Olympics.

At Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School, literacy coach Chris Bartell and library media specialist Roseann Davidson coordinated a school-wide read-in. Students snuggled up in the library with blankets and their favorite stuffed animal and listened to the Book of the Month, A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, a story about knitting and compassion for others; Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins, and other books. They snacked on cookies and lemonade, which were purchased by the PTA. Each class took part in the read-in throughout the day by visiting the library for a 20-minute period.

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