Taking a swing at reading

That rewrite of the popular ballpark song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is just one way Margaret R. Brown Elementary School literacy coach Bridget Longmeier is getting students excited about the spring reading program.

Monday was the kickoff of the four-week program, which encourages kids to spend at least 10 minutes each week reading books of their choice.

To go along with this year’s theme, Reading is a HIT at Brown Elementary, Longmeier asked Seymour High School baseball coach Jeremy Richey and some of his varsity players to come to Monday’s convocation.

They introduced themselves and told what elementary school they went to and what their favorite book was when they were a child. They then took turns reading part of “Dear Ichiro,” a baseball-themed book by Jean Davies Okimoto.

Sophomore Seth Maki and junior Tyler Bloom said they had a good time reading to the students.

“It was a real honor,” Maki said. “I enjoy reading to little kids. I enjoy helping little kids all of the time. It’s a good passion to get into. I just felt great about coming out here and reading to the kids.”

Bloom said he was glad he was asked to help out.

“I thought it would be pretty cool just to come out and have a bunch of little kids that you know look up to you because you’re the high-schoolers that play sports, and they want to do that, so they are all going to be watching you,” he said.

Maki, Bloom and the other seven players — Ryan Wieneke, Alan Perry, Janzen Bloom, Keenan Bohall, Jorge Vega, Paetan Brennan and Luis Munoz — all wanted to let the students know how important it is to read.

“Reading is knowledge, and the kids have a good future ahead of them. If they read, they’ll have a good life, and they’ll be successful in life,” Maki said. “Us being in high school, I think we set our standards high for the kids. We set our goals to where it allows them to motivate themselves and be able to understand how important reading is.”

Bloom said reading will benefit the students the rest of their lives.

“Reading is good for you when you get older,” Bloom said. “If you don’t know how to read, then you’re going to struggle in life. But if you know how to read, you’re going to be pretty good.”

The spring reading program has been a Brown Elementary tradition for more than 30 years. A school-wide convocation was added 16 years ago when Longmeier joined the staff.

Students who read at least 10 minutes at home have their parents sign a piece of paper to turn in to their teacher. At the end of each week, the students who read the most in their class receive a prize.

With this year’s theme, parents will sign baseball-shaped pieces of paper, and students will receive prizes, including baseball stickers, pencils, temporary tattoos and toppers. Top readers will receive special prizes, including a baseball bat pen, a baseball Slinky, a paddleball and an orange Brown Elementary hat.

The program culminates May 10 with a balloon launch for students who have read at least 90 minutes.

In 2015, students read a total of 176,513 minutes, an increase of nearly 25,500 minutes from the previous year’s total.

While the theme changes each year, the purpose of the reading program remains the same — to help students with reading comprehension.

When reading to students, Longmeier emphasizes the reading voice and the thinking voice. The reading voice includes using expression, phrasing and fluency as you read, while the thinking voice involves thinking out loud about characters and plot, making predictions, drawing conclusions and making inferences.

“It builds their fluency, their vocabulary, which is a big thing that we’re working on here at Brown, and comprehension,” Longmeier said.

She decided to go with a baseball theme after former Brown Elementary and Seymour High School student and current University of Kentucky pitcher Zack Brown visited the school last year to read his favorite childhood book and answer students’ questions.

“I saw a lot of excitement with that, and I thought that’s something we haven’t done,” she said of a baseball theme. “I know a lot of them are involved in baseball and softball and thought it might be a fun theme to try.”

Having the varsity players visit the school was a hit.

“They are good kids, just like celebrities almost. The students love that,” Longmeier said. “Coach Richey is really good about doing things for youth, so I figured if they have the time that they would come. I thought they did a great job reading.”

At the end of the convocation, Assistant Principal Lisa Speidel played the part of a ballpark concession worker. But instead of handing out food and drinks, she handed out books. Teachers took the books and sang the rewritten version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” before letting the students sing it with them.

The students now are ready to begin reading in their spare time.

Fourth-graders Avery Musgrave and Sophie Campbell have participated in the program in the past.

Avery said she likes reading fiction and biographies.

“I read a lot,” she said. “It’s just a really fun experience because it helps when you read something.”

Sophie said the spring reading program is good because you get to pick the books you want to read.

“You’re learning something every time you read, and I encourage people to read,” she said.

This is fourth-grader Daniel Turner’s first year at Brown after moving from Seymour-Jackson Elementary School. He is excited about participating in the reading program for the first time.

“Reading is important because you learn new stuff,” he said. “Just reading tons of books, all I like is just reading.”

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.