Volunteers needed for McPolin Elementary School’s summer reading program | ParkRecord.com
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Volunteers needed for McPolin Elementary School’s summer reading program

Sessions held Tuesdays and Thursdays starting June 14

Kara Cook, holding her daughter Hazel, established McPolin Elementary School’s summer reading program five years ago to help prevent what is called the Summer Slide, a phenomenon where kids lose or forget things they learned while in class. Volunteers are needed to read one-on-one with students for this summer’s sessions.
Park Record file photo

McPolin Elementary School seeks volunteers to read with students over the summer.

The sessions, which will feature one student per volunteer, will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting June 14, at Treasure Mountain Junior High School, said Kara Cook, who teaches first grade at McPolin Elementary.

“Each session lasts 30 minutes, and volunteers can sign up for an hour or for the full day,” she said. “They can work with any child, so they don’t have to commit to the same time every day or every week.”



Volunteers can sign up by visiting bit.ly/summerliteracytutoring.

“They don’t have to bring anything or have any teaching experience whatsoever,” Cook said about the volunteers. “We provide everything, and when they sign up, there is a link on the website for a video that explains the program.”



Although the volunteers can choose their sessions, Cook and her teaching staff,who are running the program, are there for six hours every day, said Bob Edmiston, McPolin Elementary School principal.

“They are there to supervise, manage and make sure it runs appropriately,” he said.

One-on-one reading is a great way to help students read and prevent what is called the Summer Slide, a phenomenon where kids lose or forget things they learned while in class, according to Cook.

“Somewhere between 17% to 34% of what students have learned during the previous year is lost during the summer,” she said. “We found if students receive quality reading instruction over the summer, we can mitigate those losses and even have some gains. And if we can help these students at least not have losses, they won’t have that compounding effect of always having to catch up when school starts.”

To discern the areas where students need the most help, Cook and the other teachers who run the program review all of the school’s end-of-year testing.

“We also use other assessments including a phonics assessment to ensure we’re targeting the right fields that kids need to focus on,” she said. “We have a system that shows us what skills they lack, and how to address that.”

Teachers and students collaborate on what to read, Cook said.

“We have all the materials, and we also want kids to enjoy what they’re reading,” she said.”So we leave time at the end of the sessions for them to pick some of these awesome children’s books or graphic novels that are out there. We want them to develop a passion for learning and a passion for reading.”

The program also benefits students who are learning English as their second language, Cook said.

“We do offer Spanish literacy for the students who need it,” she said. “If we can boost up the native language of students who are learning a second language it only helps them in the second language. And this was part of the decision to start this program, because inequities only get larger during the summer.”

Throughout the program, Cook creates an individualized literacy chart that shows where each student was at the beginning of the summer and where they are at the end of the summer.

“We then pass that on to the teachers at the start of the next school year, so there is no lag time and the students can pick up where they left off,” she said.

This helps teachers address needs more effectively, said Bob Edmiston, McPolin Elementary School principal.

“One of the benefits is that this data can be directly used the next year to build on what these students’ learning plans,” he said.

Cook started McPolin’s summer reading program five years ago with a handful of her teaching colleagues.

“We saw how much the students lost, so we started donating our time and invited other people to volunteer to help,” she said.

Until last year, reading program sessions were held at the Park City Library, Cook said.

“That changed last year with COVID, so we did it outside at City Park,” she said.

Edmiston invited Cook to host the sessions at Treasure Mountain Junior High.

“Having Bob invite us to the school, with the help of McPolin, will be a big difference this year,” Cook said. “We already have 67 kids enrolled.”

Edmiston says the summer reading program is one of many projects that showcase the quality and dedication of Park City School District teachers.

“They identified the need, and the need is that a large population of our students do not have the opportunity to read and continue to engage in some learning during the summer that others do,” he said. “So in an effort to support all students, they volunteered without pay to give up their summers to make time for this program.”

Cook has watched the program grow over the past five years.

“It started with a few teachers and a handful of kids, and some of those kids are still coming, as well as their younger siblings,” she said. “Then we have some of their older siblings who are volunteering.”

For information about the McPolin Elementary School summer reading program or to volunteer, visit bit.ly/summerliteracytutoring.


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