Lunchtime reading a big hit

By Lesley McCullough McCallister

As first year Read Aloud West Virginia volunteer Patrick Ashton, Assistant Principal at Mountain Ridge Intermediate School in Gerrardstown, Berkeley County, was attending his Read Aloud training, he was so excited thinking about reading to one classroom that he began to contemplate how to reach his entire school. Then it hit him, the best time to reach as many students as possible at once—lunchtime!

Typically, on “Theater Thursdays” students were allowed to watch a movie during their lunch period. Building on that idea, Mr. Ashton believed Read Aloud sessions would be a fun instructional activity that also could be tied to the curriculum. During the fall semester, Mr. Ashton began weekly Read Aloud sessions for approximately 200 students during each of three lunch periods for the third, fourth and fifth graders.

The students’ positive feedback was immediate. “I had kids asking me multiple times every day if I could read every day,” said Mr. Ashton. “Even the boys were requesting!”

This semester he read Wonder to the fourth and fifth graders and noted when it got close to Christmas he read Christmas stories and poems and put Wonder on hold.

Just before the holiday break, Mr. Ashton was promoted and will not return as Assistant Principal in the new year. Thankfully, Principal Autumne Frye has agreed to continue the lunchtime Read Aloud sessions for the students.

When asked why reading to students is so important, Mr. Ashton explained, “Enjoyment, imagination, relevance, comprehension, fluency, decoding, phonemic awareness, etc. I could go on and on. Kids need to  see that adults are excited about reading. I especially wanted to do this Read Aloud with our students to promote the idea that men do like to read and it’s not just for girls/women. And although I’m far from ‘cool,’ I am very active in their lives and I wanted the kids to see that reading is not just a forced act inside the classroom. Reading is exciting and enjoyable.”

While he won’t be at Mountain Ridge full time in the future, Mr. Ashton hopes his new position will allow him the flexibility to come back and continue reading to the students on occasion. He also hopes the idea of lunchtime Read Aloud sessions spreads to other schools throughout the state.

Lesley McCullough McCallister is a Read Aloud supporter, volunteer reader, newsletter contributor and a freelance  journalist.