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General Brown’s summer literacy program boosts students’ confidence

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BROWNVILLE — General Brown Central School District elementary teachers are trying to avoid the slide, and that’s not on any school playground.

The “summer slide” is a term teachers there use to sum up what happens in summer months when students are away from school, slip down the “academic progress slide” and require much literacy review when school starts in the fall. The district’s inaugural summer literacy program has prevented that slide, according to district curriculum coordinator Barbara A. Zehr.

“This program lets them dig deep,” she said Thursday during a visit.

Mrs. Zehr said the district was able to offer its first summer literacy program thanks to part of a $540,000 grant it received from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity Educational Partnership in September. The literacy program was made available for all military students, students with disabilities and those who were recommended by Brownville-Glen Park and Dexter elementary schools.

Twenty-eight students in kindergarten to second grade participated in the pilot program from July 10 to this week. From 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, students improved their reading and writing skills through play, games, crafts and silent reading time.

Brownville-Glen Park reading teacher Tonya M. Chamberlain and kindergarten teacher Chelsea L. Gardner said teaching small groups of children in shifts gave students more individualized instruction. Students rotated among about five teachers to get a maximum learning experience.

“You really see their confidence rise,” Mrs. Chamberlain said.

Miss Gardner agreed.

“A couple made huge gains and their eyes lit up, and they gave high-fives,” she said.

Hanna Busto, 9, who will be entering fourth grade next month, and Alyssa Clemons, 8, who will enter third grade, said they were happy to go through the program as friends. Alyssa said she hopes to do some of the same fun activities throughout the 2012-13 school year as she did in the summer program. Activities and games included a scavenger hunt, alphabet crafts, writing about a camping trip and writing postcards home to parents.

“We also did a ballgame, and it’d ask questions like, ‘What’s the main character?’” said Hayden Crandall, 8.

Hayden, who will enter third grade next month, said he had fun since the program’s first day. He said he likes to read, although he struggles with it.

“It’s very hard,” he said. “I like to read anything, except anything girly.”

Mrs. Zehr said the program will last three years under the federal grant and will expand to include two more grade levels next summer.

By the third year, it will be open to all elementary grades, she said.

“The Board of Education put a summer literacy program in their strategic plan three years ago,” she said.

“We’re right on target for our strategic plan as far as keeping students academically challenged in the summer to avoid that summer slide.”

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