CLAYTON — Story book characters roamed the halls and classrooms of Riverwood Elementary on Friday, when students were dressed as their favorite character for Read Across America Day.
Older students were partnered with younger students and they read to each other on Friday to celebrate the joy of reading. The day is also known as Dr. Seuss’ birthday.
“I’m excited that they have a chance to show the older kids that they know how to read,” said first grade teacher Erin Haskins.
In her classroom, fourth graders came in to partner with the first graders. Haskins told the fourth graders that the students in her class had been practicing their reading, so to make sure they let the first graders to most of the reading.
One first grader, Cate Monk, dressed up as her favorite character from the book “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” Monk read with two fourth graders, Kayla Petroski, and Elisha Kearns.
School principal Dorlisa Johnson said, “It shows that reading is a pathway to success, and it’s a fun way.” She also said that the dress-up day allows the students to be creative and express themselves.
“It allows us to know the interests of our children as well,” said Johnson.
Since older grades were paired with younger grades, that meant some siblings could read together.
One of the sibling pairs was Sydney Carson, a fourth-grader, read with her younger sister, Summer Carson, who is in first grade. Carson was dressed up as Pippy Longstocking and had pigtails that stretched in the opposite directions, held up by a clothes hanger. Her younger sister was dressed up as “Fancy Nancy.” Summer said her older sister is her favorite person to read with.
Reading as volunteering
Dr. Rodney Peterson is the Chief Academic Officer of Johnston County Schools. He said the school system relies heavily on volunteers to help supplement what the students are learning in the classroom.
“Help with reading is not just a one time thing for Read Across America Day,” said Peterson. “It’s something we always need civic groups to help out with.”
One of the recommendations from the national reading panel is having people come and read to students, Peterson said. Hearing someone read to them helps improve vocabulary.
“I wish we could do the buddy reading more often,” said one fourth grade teacher, Catherine Sweeney. She said her students had been looking forward to reading with the younger students.
Targeting reading proficiency at a young age helps improve literacy rates among adults. In Johnston County, the illiteracy rate is 15. 2 percent. In Wake County, the illiteracy rate is a little bit lower, at 11.2 percent.
Reading can also help improve test scores, which is one way the state measures the proficiency of the students.
The EOG reading proficiency rates from 2011-2012 for grades 3-8 at Johnston County Schools was 78.4 percent according to school spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones. In high school, reading profiency is measured in English 1 class. The proficiency rate for English 1 was 85 percent.
Peterson recommended any volunteer or civic group who is interested in helping with a reading program to contact the public information officer at the school where they would like to volunteer.