Finch, Garden Hills, Towns and Venetian Hills elementary schools participate in Jumpstart Read for the Record

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Students from around Atlanta Public Schools took part in Jumpstart’s annual Read for the Record event, with Garden Hills and Towns elementary schools each hosting their own event and Finch and Venetian Hills elementary schools joining in on a larger event at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta.

Mike Beatty, commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, wowed an audience that included 25 students each from Finch and Venetian Hills, as well as students from Premier Academy. David Chandley, meteorologist forWSB-TV, served as host for the event, with guest appearances including Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall.

Before the big read at the Hyatt, Chandley cited research that showed that 73 percent of Americans wrongly believe that if kids start kindergarten behind in their reading proficiency, that they will somehow be able to easily catch up. Jumpstart’s literacy efforts hope to get children off to a proper reading start.

The students and their parents and teachers seemed excited at the opportunity. The students filled the ballroom and immediately started drawing figures inspired from this year’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, at separate tables before forming a large crowd sitting on the floor as Beatty read to them.

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Finch parent Nyyokakie Nelson Strickland took time to joint her son, kindergartener Joshua Nelson (above), at the event, and was thrilled he was able to participate so he can begin building a reading foundation. “I want him to learn to read as soon as possible so that he can learn to communicate better with others, build strength as a speaker and to better function in the outside world,” Nelson Strickland said.

Joshua’s teacher, Finch veteran kindergarten teacher Laverne Emanuel, appreciated the opportunity to give her students another way to think about literacy. “This is a great learning experience for them. It’s very hands-on so that they can see how reading applies to them. They can see it in a book and get enthusiastic about that book in a different setting. This really makes it enjoyable for the children.”

Angela Barrett, Venetian Hills’ math coach and her group’s chaperone, agreed about the value of the trip. “This is very valuable because it gives them an opportunity to see that adults are serious about reading and want to support their learning,” said Barrett, who chaperoned Venetian Hills’ visit last year when they heard the book “Corduroy” read to them.

Co-sponsors of the event were Pearsons, Sodexo and Smart Start, the early childhood division of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

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Over at Garden Hills, students wondered, “How hungry can a caterpillar be?”  The school’s kindergarten students fed their “Hungry Caterpillar” more than 200 cans of food before listening to Principal Amy Wilson (above) read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The children then enjoyed a reading of the Spanish version by Maria Delgado Taylor.

Even though reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar was the focus of the day, as students at an International Baccalaureate school, they wanted to do more.  So they tied in the idea of being hungry to the victims of the Atlanta area’s recent floods.  What better way to help our community than to send the food collected to the Atlanta Food Bank! (See below.)

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When a Garden Hills parent, Jilo Tisdale (family literacy coordinator of Smart Start/ United Way) heard the kindergarteners were participating in the Jumpstart program, she brought a copy of the book for every kindergartener by the end of the day.

“I am so proud of our students and was thrilled to be a part of the Jumpstart Reading program,” Principal Wilson said. “Our kindergarten students demonstrated caring and empathy by donating canned goods and enjoying reading.  What more could a principal ask for?”

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Over at Towns Elementary (above), 366 students participated in the Read for the Record campaign, as Principal Carla Pettis read the text to pre-kindergarteners. Kindergarten teachers and Media Specialist Allaenna Williams worked collaboratively to develop a presentation for students that took place in the media center.

A variety of instructional activities were implemented:
* The entire school participated in reading and comprehension activities (i.e., questioning, sequencing, etc.)
* Students learned and sang “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” song
* Students participated in writing assignments
* Students produced charts and graphs of the book and acted out the story

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