RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
Children from Portsmouth City Schools are spending their summer discovering the types of exciting adventures that can only be found between the covers of a good book.
Portia Williams has a daughter who graduated, a daughter who is a senior, and a son who is a sophomore in the Portsmouth City School District. Williams was attending the school’s quarterly community meeting in April, listening to Superintendent Scott Dutey talk about new standardized testing requirements coming in 2014 and the need for students to be prepared. She decided she wanted to help the kids at Portsmouth City School, and brought some of her ideas to Dutey.
“I came up with the idea of Portsmouth Trojan Readers, which is a joint effort with myself and some other parents, community volunteers and the Portsmouth City School; to just provide opportunities for kids to practice reading through games,” Williams said.
Dutey said he loved the idea, and he offered the school district’s resources to help.
“We can’t get by as a district without folks coming on board as volunteers willing to help. You see it all the time with the athletic facilities and those type of things, but the real reason we’re here is to educate the kids,” Dutey said. “To be able to do that, particularly in the summer when we don’t have access to these kids … it just keeps things moving. It allows kids to continue to utilize their minds.”
The program is now available once a week at the 14th Street Community Center, in Portsmouth. Williams met with the school’s curriculum coordinator to create lesson programs.
“We read books and have them to read along with us. We play different games, like Scrabble, Apples-to-Apples, and a new game called Headbandz, and Word Bingo — just a lot of different word games. Next week will be something called Word Relay, where you get both the physical and the learning component where the kids will actually race to have relays of running and spelling words and then turning back to pass the marker to another kid to run up and spell a word,” Williams said.
Already she’s seeing a change in students’ behavior and reading proficiencies.
“Each week more children come back and tell me, ‘Mrs. Williams, I’ve read two books,’ or ‘I’ve read three books,’ or ‘I’ve done this’ concerning reading. I think the morale overall, they are inspired to read more,” Williams said.
Students can enroll in Portsmouth Trojan Readers through The Counseling Center’s Summer Outreach Club. To participate in the reading program, parents should contact Clarence Parker at The Counseling Center. Parker is also president of the Portsmouth City School Board.
Currently there are about 30 kids, ages 5-8, attending the reading program each week.
While the program is currently only being offered in the summer, through the second week of August, Dutey said he would love to extend it into the new school year.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.