County students take time to stop, drop, read

There are only two weeks left for children and adults to “Stop, Drop and Read” for a chance to win prizes from READ Jackson County.

The local literacy coalition is sponsoring the reading campaign to help raise literacy awareness in the community and to encourage all ages to find time to read every day.

To participate, teachers can take pictures of their students reading during the school day and post them to READ’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages with hashtag #READJacksonCounty.

All grades from preschool to high school are eligible to enter the contest, with each photo counting as an entry to win one of nine Prairie Farms ice cream parties.

Adults and children wanting to get involved in Stop Drop and Read outside school can enter the same way for a chance to win box seat tickets to an Indianapolis Indians game and other prizes.

The contest ends April 30, and winners will be chosen May 1.

Matt Nicholson, director of READ Jackson County, said being able to read at the appropriate age level is a vital skill for all people to have, but there are many who struggle.

“In Jackson County, 16 percent of adults are reading below a third-grade level,” Nicholson said. “And that’s too much.”

Stop, Drop and Read is a way to make reading fun and to get more people to think about taking just 20 or 30 minutes during their day to sit down and read, he said.

At the halfway point, Nicholson said, more than 100 entries have been submitted from nine area schools.

“Some of them have been really entertaining,” he said of the photos.

Kim Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Ambrose Catholic School, said her students love the Stop, Drop and Read campaign. She has submitted several photos of students lying under tables or on the floor reading.

“Usually they don’t want to stop when the 20 minutes are up,” she said. “From a teacher’s viewpoint, I love their enthusiasm for reading.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a 20-minute block of free time to read, but she always works it in somehow.

“Some days, it’s a few minutes here and there between subjects,” she said.

Seymour-Jackson Elementary School teacher Cecily Noelker said she appreciated Nicholson’s efforts to increase literacy awareness in the community. She has submitted photos of her fourth-grade students reading in the school’s outdoor wildlife habitat.

“For our class, the point was made that we can stop, drop and read anywhere,” she said. “I can’t think of anything better than grabbing a good book and taking it outdoors.”

Nicholson, who is celebrating his first year as director, said he wants to make Stop, Drop and Read an annual event and hopes to get more community partners involved in the future.

Besides the reading campaign, READ Jackson County continues to provide one-to-one tutoring for adults who need help learning how to read or improving their reading skills. The agency also is working with volunteers at Seymour Middle School through the SMS Reads program to provide students with an extra hour a week to work on reading.

To address the number of non-English-speaking residents, READ Jackson County also offers English as a second language classes and a Spanish class for residents wanting to be able to understand, speak, read and write in Spanish.

In the near future, Nicholson said, there will be tutoring services available for children and adults who suffer from dyslexia.

“We’re really open to anything we can come up with to help people,” he said.

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To participate, teachers can take pictures of their students reading during the school day and post them to READ’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages with the #READJacksonCounty. Adults and children wishing to get involved outside of school can enter the same way.