$105K grant to expand Killingly’s summer reading program

October 13, 2012
From the NorwichBulletin

A new grant will pave the way for an expanded Killingly summer reading program aimed at maintaining elementary students’ skills throughout the school break.

The Town Council on Tuesday accepted a three-year grant from the New Alliance Foundation’s Public Library Summer Reading Initiative. The money, $35,000 each year for the life of the grant, will enable library and school staff to provide lower-income families with elementary students in grades kindergarten through third grade increased reading opportunities, Library Director Peter Ciparelli said.

“A lot of kids aren’t provided with the tools they need for continued reading growth,” he said. “And the skills they have get worse in the summer. Summer ends and they lose a big percentage of what they’ve learned. This is our opportunity to help them keep those reading skills.”

Ciparelli said the money will be funneled into several areas, including programming, staff and supplies. He said staff members will make field visits to targeted areas, such as the town’s Village at Killingly housing complex, while also buttressing the library’s existing summer reading program.

“It’s an ambitious program,” he said.

Allison Whiston, the library’s children and young adult director, said preliminary plans call for sending reading specialists to Killingly Memorial and Killingly Central schools each week during the summer as part of those schools before-and-after programs. She said the “helpers” will be able to identify those children having reading difficulties.

“And it’ll be fun,” Whiston said. “We’ll have weekly themes, educational performers and other activities at the library.”

Money will also be used to bus Killingly Central School students to the library during the school year, a trip Killingly Memorial students can make by just crossing the street. She said the grant funding will help pay for new computers that can track a child’s reading, while also giving them the ability to post online reviews and recommendations for books they like.

Danielson parent Sondra West, the mother of three Killingly students, said she’s been taking her children to the summer reading program for years.

“They really like it and it gets them away from the TV and computer and gets their minds working,” she said. “It would be much harder to get them reading without the program. They have prizes and guessing games that get them in a place where they’re encouraged to read.”

Carol Records, the librarian for Killingly Central and Memorial schools, said her staff, along with the schools’ reading teachers, will work closely with Whiston in the coming months to fine-tune the summer program. She said the program is crucial to keeping comprehension, decoding and fluency skills honed.

“It’s about getting the books into the children’s hands and making them available,” she said. “If you do that, they’re not coming back to school at a deficit. The teachers can move forward instead of going backwards.”