Reading opens cultural doors

Rover’s Readers uses after-school events to promote reading.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:51 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Raven Meyers, a second-grader at Two Mile Prairie Elementary School, was dressed for a trip to Japan.

Wearing a purple kimono and chopsticks in her hair, she made an origami jumping frog and a carp kite, played wiffle ball and sampled authentic Japanese cuisine.

Raven and other second- and third-graders at Two Mile Prairie were on a “trip” to Japan on Monday afternoon.

After getting their passports stamped, the group departed for Japan and had a little history and language lesson before getting a taste of Japanese culture.

The trip was made possible by Rover’s Readers, a reading incentive program that rewards students for developing consistent reading habits outside of school.

Christina Wehmeyer, third-grade teacher and program coordinator, said each month students “travel” around the world because reading opens the door to the world.

To participate in Rover’s Readers, students must read at least 15 minutes a night for at least five nights a week, three weeks per month. If students reach this goal, they are invited to a monthly celebration that takes place after school.

At the celebrations, they learn information about the featured country, play games, try some of the country’s cuisine and create a craft from the country.

On Monday, students made origami jumping frogs and carp kites — paper kites hung outside of Japanese families homes to celebrate Kodomo no Hi, or Children’s day, which is on May 5.

They also played wiffle ball, which is a passion of the Japanese.

Before going home for the day, the students got to practice using chopsticks while sampling Japanese curry rice stew and green tea.

Wehmeyer said this year students have traveled to Greece, Spain, Ireland, Egypt and India. They will meet next in Argentina on May 9.

The reading program was first developed by Wehmeyer and teachers Tracy Hager at Parkade Elementary.

When Wehmeyer transferred to Two Mile Prairie in 2003, Principal Larry Jones asked her to implement the program there.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for creating an interest in reading as well as a way to have fun with an after-school club activity,” Jones said.

The program is run by second-grade teachers Teri Adams and Linda Watson and third-grade teachers Wehmeyer and Christi Bangsund.

Wehmeyer said the program is a great way to encourage the students to love reading.

Students read a variety of material, which Wehmeyer said could have helped students on the MAP tests they just finished taking.

In its second year at Two Mile Prairie, the program has continued to grow and has become a favorite among students.

Raven said her favorite thing about Rover’s Readers is being around all of her classmates and having a good time. Her favorite trip so far has been to Egypt because she got to make a mummy.

“Each year, as the fifth-graders prepare to go off to middle school, they write about their favorite memories from their elementary years,” Wehmeyer said. “It never fails that several of them will write about Rover’s Readers and how much fun they had.”

Students who have met their reading goals all year and have attended at least seven of the eight monthly celebrations are invited to a sleepover at Two Mile. This year’s sleepover is scheduled for Friday, May 20.

“We try to have the lights out by midnight, but there are always a few quiet whispers in the dark,” Wehmeyer said.

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