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Paonia Reads! helps students enjoy books

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Photo by Tamie Meck Students in Emily Horn's first grade class at Paonia Elementary School raise their hands to ask questions while Betsy Frank reads a book about the desert. Frank and her daughter, Ellie Roberts provide the books through Paonia Reads, a

It's Tuesday and Betsy Frank collects book bags from Emily Horn's students. A week earlier the 20 first graders received the bags filled with books and took them home. On Wednesday they will all take home their bags filled with a new set of books.

"The kids look forward to it every week," says Frank. "They can't wait to get home and read with their parents."

The book bags are provided through Paonia Reads!, a program Frank and daughter Ellie Roberts established for Horn's first-grader. Frank said they are constantly hunting for books at thrift stores, yard sales and library book sales. Each book is cleaned and protected with a clear, washable cover.

"I spent half my summer cleaning them up," said Frank with a smile.

Roberts, a social studies and geography teacher at Paonia Junior-Senior High School, made all 25 of the heavy-duty book bags, and Lasting Impressions printed the logo, which features the image of a book worm.

Mother and daughter are both very passionate about reading. Frank taught high school English for 35 years and is now retired. Roberts has a masters degree in reading and was a middle school reading specialist for the Aspen School District before moving to the North Fork area. The program is modeled on the national Raising a Reader program. According to its website, www.raisingareader.org, it has helped more than a million families "build and sustain reading routines in their home..."

While they could have tapped into the program, Frank and Roberts decided they would create their own program locally and consider it in the future.

At a minimum, each bag is sent home filled with two picture books and at least two non-fiction, grade-level reader books. Students reading above grade level receive second-year readers.

Getting children to read is so critical, said Frank. She sites a statistic from Patricia Mathes, who authored "Early Interventions in Reading" (SRA/McGraw-Hill), that "a student who fails to learn to read adequately in the first grade has a 90 percent probability of remaining a poor reader by grade 4 and a 75 percent probability of being a poor reader in high school."

Reading is a factor in determining a child's future, said Frank. What she is seeing with the program, and through spending time in the classroom, is that kids look forward to reading.

Parents also receive a weekly newsletter with reading tips and reminders on when the bags are due back at school.

Not all books make it back, and that's okay, said Frank. At the end of they year they plan to let each child keep a book, which means they need to be on the lookout for more books.

Frank said there is a lot of interest from other teachers and the school library and they hope to expand the program to other grades in the future.

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Paonia, School
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