Books – gates to the world
The murmur of young voices quietly fills the room. Under a desk in the corner, second grader Chris Whaley curls up with a book on his lap. Hovering nearby, third grader Jahnz (Randall) Myers waits patiently to offer help if Chris needs some.
Across the table, first grader Grayson Rice reads her book to Brian DeBolt, a second grade teacher at Summerville Elementary School and initiator of the Reading Counts Club, an after-school club for children in his class, to help them hone their reading skills.
Reading Counts is a national Scholastic initiative used school-wide.
DeBolt has taken the initiative a step further and spends every Friday after school with children from his classroom to help them succeed.
After a child has read a book, he or she sits at a computer and logs on to the Reading Counts site. There, they plug in the name of the book they have read and answer some simple comprehension questions. Depending on how well they do on this “test” they will be awarded a number of points.
In DeBolt’s classroom, the student with the most points at the end will get to dress him up however they see fit.
“I think one of the mom’s has feet close to my size,” he says with chagrin. He may be in high heels soon….
A child runs up to him and tells him the score he just achieved adding with a mischievous grin, “I am going to make you wear a tutu and tiara!”
At another computer, a child makes a noise of frustration. DeBolt goes over and calmly suggests he simply read the book again instead of getting upset. “You’ll get it, just read it again.”
The child smiles and opens the book.
The children gather on Fridays after school in DeBolt’s classroom. The only prerequisite to being a member of the hour-long “club” is parental permission and a ride home.
The school librarian chooses a book cart full of grade-appropriate Reading Counts books. Once he has the children gathered, DeBolt assigns two to be in charge of the cart and they make their way to the computer lab, two little girls pushing the cart down the hall.
The group is composed of first and second graders with third and fourth grade helpers. The non-second grade participants are for the most part siblings of the children in his classroom. They help the younger students.
DeBolt says the reading club helps with comprehension, fluency and to teach the children to enjoy reading. “They compete for points.
“Anything to get them to read,” he says.
The selection of books includes fiction and non-fiction. Grayson is reading a book about jellyfish and she points out to DeBolt that jellyfish look like mushrooms.
School-wide, says DeBolt, teachers are beginning to work with vocabulary, recognizing how important it is.
Parents help with snacks for the club.
“The parents do snacks and transportation,” says DeBolt, shaking his head, “they have been wonderful, simply wonderful.”
DeBolt, who has been a teacher for 11 years, used to be a math intervention teacher before taking on the second grade classroom. When he is not in school he is a camp director in West Ashley over the summer, a girls varsity soccer coach at Summerville High School.
Mercehdez Green says she likes the club “‘cause I like to read and take tests. It helps me get better at reading.”
She shyly says her favorite books are those about dolphins and Barbie.
“My most favorite book is Miss Brooks Loves Books….
DeBolt laughs. “I can’t get them to stop reading! I will look up and catch someone reading and have to say ‘I am glad you like to read but could you please listen to the lesson?’”