Buddies Boost Brains with books at Ellington

By Deborah Gertz Husar Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 18, 2018 9:00 am
QUINCY — Ellington School third-grader Ryleigh Hoyt and her first-grade buddy Carina Epperley have several things in common — including a love of llamas in red pajamas.

Ryleigh read aloud “Llama Llama Red Pajamas” during a Tuesday afternoon get-together focused on the importance of reading and brain development.

Reading to someone younger “makes them learn,” Ryleigh said. “I really like reading.”

Carina liked listening to the story before she took a turn reading a book to Ryleigh — and even hanging out with her buddy was fun.

The third-graders also designed posters to take home with their books to emphasize the importance of reading to develop the architecture of the brain.

“The students will go and talk to their parents about why it’s important to read to young students, and if there’s someone in their life younger than them, they pledged to read that book,” third-grade teacher Rozlyn Wahlen said.

“I’m hoping this will reinforce that importance of reading and learning because students are able to take a leadership role in reading to someone else. Third grade is kind of where you start reading to learn instead of learning to read. They’re taking that ownership and pride in what they’re able to do and taking it to someone else.”

Reading aloud to each other is fun “because we are friends,” first-grader Zander Gioviannia said while sitting next to his buddy, third-grader David Zellmer. “For little kids, it helps them get smarter,” David said.

The project is part of the Ready. Set. Grow! West Central Illinois initiative, offered through Regional Office of Education 1 and supported by United Way of Adams County, to shrink the kindergarten readiness gap.

Jan Cory, professional development consultant with the Regional Office of Education, met with Wahlen’s class to talk about the importance of reading and how the thinking that’s required at school helps grow the “architecture of the brain” for future learning.

“That’s true for us throughout our life, but the younger we are, the more brain cell connections grow,” Cory said.

Reading to young children also builds vocabulary, comprehension and the ability to focus. Ready. Set. Grow! hopes all parents read five or more days a week to help their children find later school success.

“A lot of people know it’s a good idea to read, but we want them to know it changes the architecture of the brain,” Cory said. “These kids are going out being emissaries of getting the message to people they know in their neighborhood, their families and in their school.”

Other local schools previously participated in the initiative.

Third-grade students at Adams School wrote two books with their music teacher, and one book, “Bingo,” was adopted by Quincy Medical Group and given to children at well-child visits. Liberty School collected gently used books, and Baldwin sixth-graders and the Early Childhood and Family Center collected money to buy new books for children visiting the Adams County Health Department.

“It is a fun project,” Wahlen said. “It’s wonderful.”