ARC encourages summer reading

Free Soda Creek Elementary program open to first- through fifth-grade levels

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To Jett Seymour, 6, summer means biking, riding his scooter and hanging out at the pool.

It also means reading.

Jett attended the first day of the free Summer ARC program Wednesday to check out some books and test his reading skills.

He sat down at one of a couple dozen computers at Soda Creek Elementary School and quickly logged on. Then he selected his reading level and the game he wanted to play. He already had played the rocket ship and submarine games, so this time chose a game featuring bouncing smiley faces.

The computer screen flashed a word and a voice pronounced it, and then Jett had to choose the word's main vowel sound. When he chose correctly, a bridge came down and the smiley face bounced across. When he chose incorrectly, the bridge stayed up and the smiley face fell down.

Distracted, he did not pick the sound for the first word quickly enough and down went the smiley face.

"So now I'm only gonna get nine," said Jett, who scored a perfect 10 out of 10 earlier that morning.

Jett is one of a few hundred children expected to attend the summer program, which is paid for by the Technology Commission, using revenues from Steamboat Springs' half-cent sales tax for education. The program uses the Accelerated Reading Computer program and Lexia, a series of interactive reading software programs, and other reading software.

It also takes advantage of the elementary school's library, which has thousands books coded for different reading levels, and the expertise of Sue Barnes, a Soda Creek Elementary School classroom teacher and Marty O'Leary, Soda Creek media specialist.

"The main purpose is just to keep them reading, so they're maintaining their skills," Barnes said. "If they do it enough, they'll increase their skills."

This is the first year that Jett has participated in the program, and his mom, Blair Seymour, said they likely would be there every week this summer.

She wants Jett to learn not just to read well, but also to enjoy reading.

"I think that's going to be the milestone," she said. When Jett worked on the computer programs and checked out his book, she said it was clear he was having fun.

"He loves it," she said. "He was sitting there going, 'Yes!'"

Depending on what level of reader a student is, Barnes and O'Leary can help get the student on the right computer program and into the right books. Even preschoolers who stop by while their older siblings are using the program can learn beginning sounds and letter matching on the computers.

Students work on a range of reading skills, from sight words to phonics. There are rows of books that come with computerized comprehension quizzes.

"And it's in a game format," Barnes said.

Students can read with the computer, or sit down on a comfy chair and just read to themselves.

Gabriel Bohlmann, 9, came to check out books Wednesday. She said she remembered learning how to read in kindergarten.

"It was hard, because you would read a book and then come across a word you don't know and have to get help," Bohlmann said.

It's easier now, she said, but still tough, because there are always new words to learn and harder books to read.

Still, reading is worth it, for the places you go and the people you meet. One of Bohlmann's favorite books, for example, is about a seventh-grade girl who finds out she's a mermaid.

"Sometimes, like, if there's a problem in a book, I'll get really worried," Bohlmann said. "And then I'll think to myself, 'Why am I getting worried? It's just a book.'"

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