Author and educator Steven Layne is headed back to the Oswego School District. And this time, the students will get in on the act.
Layne is director of the Master of Education in Literacy program at Judson University in Elgin, and has been an educator for more than 15 years. He’s also a prolific author—he’s written more than 20 children’s books, with titles like "P is for Princess" and "My Brother Dan’s Delicious."
In October of last year, Layne visited Boulder Hill Elementary School to share tips from his book “Igniting a Passion for Reading” with teachers. Before a packed gymnasium, Layne worked to inspire educators from District 308’s three Montgomery area elementary schools: Boulder Hill, Long Beach and Lakewood Creek.
Since then, teachers at all three schools have been incorporating Layne’s ideas in a quest to get young kids hooked on reading. They’ve created reading lounges, enlisted popular teachers to recommend books, started libraries in the classroom, and launched early-morning book clubs that have drawn hundreds of students.
On Feb. 28, Layne will return to Boulder Hill Elementary, first to talk to teachers during the day, and then to meet students and community members, and work with them in the evening. And on April 3, he will visit Long Beach Elementary to do the same thing.
At Boulder Hill, the staff has taken on a year-long reading program they call Camp Read S’More. The school’s fathers forum created mock campfires made of, among other things, electric lamps and tissue paper. Each classroom has its own campfire, and uses it for reading events.
And last month, teachers brought all of those campfires together in the gym, and gathered all the students together for a read-along. They turned the lights down, and Principal Jeff Schafermeyer read Chris Van Dusen’s book A Camping Spree With Mr. Magee, and a poem from Kristine O’Connell George’s Toasting Marshmallows.
“You could have heard a pin drop,” said Laurie Klose, a reading specialist who teaches kindergarten through grade three. Klose was the one who came up with the Camp Read S’More idea, along with first-grade teacher Kendy Moore—both belong to the school’s 12-member reading committee.
Klose had seen a similar idea inspire students in another district, she said, and suggested the year-long theme for Boulder Hill. And it’s been working, she said. Students came to school the day after the Camp Read S’More assembly excited about the books they’d heard, and ready to read more.
“They’re asking good questions,” she said. “Reading is important to them. If you can get a kid lost in a book, it’s magic.”