United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region


Tag: Verona Elementary School

Beating the Summer Slide

by Kellie Cochrane


Summer brings a lot of excitement when you’re a kid; sleeping in, plenty of outside play time, and no homework.  The freedom kids celebrate, however, causes educators to worry about the “summer slide.”  Summer slide refers to a learning loss some students experience when removed from the school system for months on end.

At United Way, we’re very proud of our early grade reading efforts and the impact they’ve made, but the work doesn’t end when the school year does.  Throughout the year, kindergarten and first grade students’ reading proficiency is carefully tracked, and at the end of the year, their reading levels are recorded.  Throughout the summer, students receive books in the mail that are tailored to their reading level.  This method simplifies things for parents, as they don’t have to worry about transportation or buying the books.  It also creates an excitement around reading, as the kids view the books as gifts, many parents report that their children are anxious to read the new books to them.

This week, Time magazine published an article stating that the only definite factor in learning success over the summer, was parents who read with their children.  While many think the summer slide is largely based on socioeconomic status, this study found that regardless of income level, trips to the library and children spending time reading or being read to, keeps students on track.  Another study found that giving students books to read over the summer was just as effective as summer school.

We’ve seen results locally with our approach to beating the summer slide.  Last year, 91% of the students in kindergarten and first grade at Verona Elementary received the books.  Of those that returned to Verona, 78% maintained or improved their exit reading level.

For more information about our early grade reading efforts, contact communityimpact@uwbckr.org.

Back to School Means Time to Invest in Our Students

by Kellie Cochrane

It seems like everyone is getting in the back-to-school spirit!  As a recent college grad, it feels a little surreal not to be agonizing over the costs of my books and comparing class schedules with friends.   While I’m still adjusting to my new “alumna” status, back-to-school time as a new United Way employee brings its own excitement: a chance to see some of our incredible education initiatives in full swing!

Verona Elementary School in Battle Creek has really been an inspiration to our region.  In 2011, United Way began working with the school to create a program that would help boost third grade reading levels.  Why third grade?  This third year in elementary school marks an important transition for students: the switch between learning to read and reading to learn.  Research shows that students who lack reading proficiency in third grade are more likely to fall behind and fail to graduate.  In 2011, Verona Elementary, the Calhoun Intermediate School District and United Way formed the Verona Early Grade Reading Achievement Pilot Project.

This program provided teachers with professional development training, volunteer reading buddies for the students, support and engagement for at home activities, protection against the “summer slide” and community connections for additional resources.  The payoff has been extraordinary: Kindergarten students went from 5 percent reading at the proficient level or higher at the end of the 2011 school year to 71 percent at proficient or higher at the end of the 2012 school year. Half of the students were reading at an advanced level above their normal grade level.

Results like this truly spark change.  Earlier this month, SNAP Inc. Preschool announced they will be featuring a similar program and are looking for volunteers.  Think of what a difference being a reading buddy can make for these students.  If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer for the Verona Project, contact Kim Lehman   Just 30 minutes of your time spent reading to a child helps create a change our whole community can see.