Program takes a read on summer

Cassie Monroe
Posted 7/12/12

The summer early-childhood literacy program at Swanson Elementary School in Arvada offers reading, writing and noshing. The 57 children …

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Program takes a read on summer


The summer early-childhood literacy program at Swanson Elementary School in Arvada offers reading, writing and noshing.

The 57 children participating, whose parents signed them up for 10 weeks of additional reading education throughout the summer, get to school at 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. They are served breakfast, then practice their reading and writing, then have lunch at 11:15 a.m. before they leave for the day.

This is the first year for the literacy program, offered at four elementary schools in Jefferson County, including Swanson. The others are Edgewater Elementary, and Molholm and Lasley elementary schools in Lakewood.

It is funded by the Jefferson and Salazar foundations. According to Katie Tiernan, executive director of the Jefferson Foundation, the goal of the program is to keep children engaged in reading during the summer months so they do not lose important skills learned during the year.

She said the program also benefits the teachers


“Teachers have the chance to practice, refine strategies, and test new ideas over summertime,” Tiernan said.

For the program, the Jefferson Foundation used a grant it received from Mile High United Way. The importance of reading proficiently by third grade has been well documented, the reason Mile High United Way partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service in August 2011 to create the Early Literacy Social Innovation Fund, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Education.

The summer literacy program is just one of several ways Mile High United Way plans to increase reading proficiency rates over the next five years. The organization will receive $1.8 million each year for the next two years from the Social Innovation Fund grant. Through its fundraising efforts, United Way will match every dollar, ultimately providing $3.6 million to be used in the state of Colorado to help advance children’s’

ability to read.

Other national organizations have partnered with the summer reading program at the four schools to provide the children with fun methods to develop their reading and writing abilities.

One of the fun methods is provided by Spellbinders volunteers. The national organization trains volunteers to be good storytellers. The storytellers are usually retired school teachers or older adults who wish to volunteer their time in schools. They typically work with students in kindergarten and first grade. Three storytellers volunteer in the early-literacy program at each of the four schools.

Carla Endsley, principal at Swanson, said storytelling helps students understand how to use description and develop oral language skills.

“The kids are always talking,” Endsley said. “They should always be engaged and sharing their ideas with someone.”

Swanson is one of the locations in Arvada that also participates in the summer-meal program, funded by the Colorado Department of Education. During the school year, 78 percent of students at the school are on the free-and-reduced-lunch program. During the summer, anyone under 18 years old can come to the school to get a free lunch.

The Jefferson Foundation has provided the school with a grant that allows parents to come to the school to eat lunch with their kids as well.

According to Candy Speaker, the site’s food-service manager, about 15 parents eat lunch at the school on any given day.

“It’s great to interact with the parents,” Speaker said. “It takes a village to do this. It’s all of us that help those children every step of the way.”

About 150 children eat at the school daily. The same meals are served at all of the summer-lunch program sites. The breakfast menu varies from pancakes to a breakfast burrito to bagels or cereal. Lunch offerings include whole-wheat fortified pasta, chicken nuggets, turkey teriyaki, pizza and burgers.

Meals include an entree with carbohydrates and protein, a side of fruits and veggies, and milk to wash

it all down.


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