A children’s book called Quackers about a cat that thinks it’s a duck, played a central role recently in a national reading experience that involved more than 100 Geneva grade school students and their HWS student tutors. “Read for the Record” was a one-day shared reading experience that involved more than two million people on the national level, including 65 from HWS.
“The third-grade students thought it was cool that so many other kids around the country would be reading [the same book] too,” said Maeve Creagan ’19, a history and political science major who tutors at Lafayette Intermediate School in Waterloo. “The best part was coming together as a group and talking.”
The one-day reading event was easily incorporated into the childrens’ schedules. For 28 years, HWS students working with the Colleges’ America Reads program have provided reading assistance one-on-one to children in grades one through three at six schools in three local school districts.
Read for the Record was introduced to the America Reads tutors in October, says Makayla Pydych ’19, who serves as civic leader of literacy for the program. “We asked coordinators if they would do a read-aloud of the book or ask their tutors to conduct a group read,” she says. The books were distributed to tutors at each school and incorporated in the day’s lessons on Oct. 19—the date observed by readers across the country.
Supplemental materials were provided to encourage conversation on the book, which focused on lessons of understanding and acceptance. “My group loved Quackers,” says Tobey Eveleth ’20, who tutors at Geneva’s West Street Elementary School. “The ones who wanted to read it again were some of the ones we’ve had the most trouble getting to read. It was a very relatable book, especially for anyone who has ever felt themselves an outcast, and the children connected with it.”
The lessons from Read for the Record are continuing to benefit the America Reads tutors and their young charges. “After that experience I’ve tried to do a group read every other Wednesday,” says Creagan.
Data indicates that the America Reads program is effective, says Assistant Principal Susan Meskos of West Street School in Geneva. “The two hours a week our students spend reading with their tutor helps to increase fluency and comprehension,” she says. “The individualized attention allows students to read but also discuss the books they are reading, which leads to higher level thinking.”
Heather Eysaman, also an assistant principal at West Street, agrees. “We typically see at least one to two levels of growth in our students after they work with the HWS tutors,” she says. In addition to improved reading skills, the students also benefit from their relationship with their tutor, who may also play games, shoot hoops, or join in holiday celebrations with the children during their sessions. “The bond that develops is really something,” says Eysaman. “They thrive because they are getting positive attention. It really becomes a bright spot in their day.”