The Herald Bulletin

March 2, 2014

'Book Bingo' helps improve reading skills

Federal program provides extra help for at-risk students

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ALEXANDRIA — Trinity Bryan loves to read.

But when the 8-year-old second-grader at Alexandria-Monroe Elementary School began having trouble keeping up with her peers, Trinity's grandmother, Laura Badger, sought help.

A teacher at Alexandria schools herself, Badger noticed that Trinity seemed to be having trouble decoding words as the reading material in class became more difficult.

"She just seems to be a little bit slower putting things together when they're in reading groups," Badger said.

Thursday evening, Trinity joined about 40 other kids and their parents for a special program at the school called "Bingo for Books," held as part of the school system's Title 1 assistance program.

Title 1 is a federal program officially known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides financial assistance to states and school districts to meet the needs of educationally at-risk students.

The goal, said Nancy Steele, one of the teachers who organized Thursday's event, is to provide additional education support for at-risk students who are reading below grade level and help them catch up.

Fortified with pizza, cookies and drinks, students and their families broke into age-appropriate groups to play "bingo."

Instead of calling out numbers or letters, however, teachers called out words, which the children then matched on their bingo cards. When the kids matched the called out words, they won books as prizes to keep and read at home.

Some of the books kids went home with included the popular Mary Pope Osborne "Magic Tree House" series, Barbara Parks' "Junie B. Jones" books, and and other volumes popular with elementary school kids these days.

An important addition to the extra help that students get during the school day is that the strategies used by teachers in class are shared with parents so they can use the same strategies and techniques at home, Steele said.

Candice Rominger's 6-year-old daughter, Larissa, has only been involved with the program for a short time, but it has made a big difference.

"Before she got into the the program she was very frustrated with reading and homework and that sort of thing," Rominger said. Now that she's been in the program even a few weeks, we play games with sight words and things to help her read. She's much more exited to read."

Steele said the school tries to hold family events for the Title 1 kids and their families monthly to reinforce learning in a fun and positive atmosphere. And judging from Trinity's reaction to Thursday's event, you would hardly know it was educational at all.

"You get prizes, and you get to read and you get to play on the iPad," she said before skipping off with a bag filled with several books she won.

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