Woodland Reads inspires family togetherness and improves elementary students' reading skills during month-long events

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Woodland Reads, a teacher-led program designed to increase family togetherness and improve students' reading skills, provides free books for elementary students to read with their families multiple times each year. The month-long events feature opening and culminating after-school activities as well as daily competitions to motivate students to read and spend time with their families.

After reading a book throughout the month, the school celebrates with after-school events featuring activities inspired by the book students just read like Winn-Dixie Bingo seen here.
After reading a book throughout the month, the school celebrates with after-school events featuring activities inspired by the book students just read like Winn-Dixie Bingo seen here. 

Patti Wise, a fourth grade teacher at Woodland Intermediate School, introduced the Woodland Reads program during the 2015-16 school year with a single event. Woodland Reads was so popular that Wise organized two separate month-long events during the 2016-17 school year. Wise created the program to encourage students to read with their families. "Developing reading skills at a young age is incredibly important to a student's lifelong learning," explained Wise. "In addition, studies show that family involvement can dramatically improve student learning, so I wanted to create an event that would address both those needs."

During the culminating event, students played Feed-the-Dog by pinning a bone on a drawing of a dog while blindfolded.
During the culminating event, students played Feed-the-Dog by pinning a bone on a drawing of a dog while blindfolded. 

During March, all students at Woodland Intermediate School received a free copy of "Because of Winn-Dixie," a heartwarming story by Newbery Medalist author Kate DiCamillo about a ten-year old child, Opal Buloni, who goes to the supermarket to buy groceries and comes home with a dog. The story tells the adventures of Opal and her dog including learning more about her heritage and much more. "The students loved the book because of the themes all students can relate to," said Wise. "The book speaks about themes like the importance of friendship, being kind to everyone, and not judging people by the way they look."

Each family receives a free copy of the book in English or Spanish, reading chapters together every night throughout the month. During class the following day, students answer comprehensive questions to demonstrate their knowledge. The classroom with the most students answering the questions correctly receives a prize each day. "The students love the comprehension question competition every morning," said Wise. "The classrooms with the most correctly-answered questions received small plastic dog toys on ropes to hang in their class windows to show they won that day."

Students thought of something they regret doing, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and placed it in a bottle hung on the Regret Tree, inspired by the book.
Students thought of something they regret doing, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and placed it in a bottle hung on the Regret Tree, inspired by the book. 

At the end of the month, the school celebrated with an after-school culminating event featuring games and activities inspired by the story the students read. During March's culminating event, activities included Winn-Dixie Bingo, a game of bingo featuring themes from the book; Feed Winn-Dixie, a variation on the pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey using a bone and student-drawn pictures of dogs; the Regret Tree where students think of something they did or said which they regret, write it on a small piece of paper, and stick it in a bottle hung on a tree as a way to let go of regrets; Winn-Dixie crafts, where students made crafts inspired by the book; and a snack break made up of Scooby Snacks and bottled water where students made their own trail mix using breakfast cereal, mini marshmallows, and pretzel sticks. Book fair sales held throughout the year provide the funding for the after-school events and to purchase the 450 copies of each book the school uses for the Woodland Reads program.

Volunteers from Pet Partners, a local pet therapy organization, brought their trained dogs for students to practice reading aloud.
Volunteers from Pet Partners, a local pet therapy organization, brought their trained dogs for students to practice reading aloud. 

In addition, volunteers from Pet Partners, a local pet therapy organization, brought trained therapy dogs to the library where students took turns reading to them to practice their reading-aloud skills. Pet therapy dogs visit hospitals, retirement homes, and other organizations to help comfort patients and eliminate loneliness through pet visits.

Ronald Horn (left), Master of the Woodland-Kalama Masonic Lodge, presented raffle-winning fourth graders Croix Sandoval (middle) and Maria Castro-Conriquez (right) with free bikes and helmets.
Ronald Horn (left), Master of the Woodland-Kalama Masonic Lodge, presented raffle-winning fourth graders Croix Sandoval (middle) and Maria Castro-Conriquez (right) with free bikes and helmets. 

The Woodland-Kalama Masonic Lodge #17 closed the event by raffling bicycles and helmets for two lucky winners. In order to qualify for the raffle, students had to demonstrate their reading comprehension by correctly answering four questions about the book. "The Mason mission is about knowledge and the belief that the more people can educate themselves, the better they will make society overall," explained Ronald Horn, Master of the Lodge. "Also, we're greatly appreciative of the not-for-profit PeaceHealth Health Care System who donated helmets to ensure our winners can ride their bicycles safety." This year's winners were Croix Sandoval and Maria Castro-Conriquez, both fourth grade students.

To learn more about Pet Partners, visit their website at www.petpartners.org. For individuals interested in supporting the local Lodge, email wklodge17@gmail.com.

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