Two schools, one goal: Improved reading

The library was just a little bit loud Saturday.

As part of the Sarasota County School District’s “Up with Books” program, dozens of students from Tuttle and Southside elementary schools came together for a morning of lively activities at the Selby Public Library after a yearlong partnership between the schools.

“Up with Books” aims to help build home libraries and foster a love of reading in local elementary schools. The program partners classrooms from schools with varying socio-economic backgrounds and encourages collaboration between the two. Throughout the year, 17 teachers from Tuttle and Southside volunteered to collaborate on reading and book-related projects.

The event resulted out of a brainstorming session between Tuttle and Southside administrators, said Susan Nations, assistant principal at Southside.

A little over 100 students, parents and teachers from both schools attended, cycling through four different stations, including a puppet show and behind the scenes tour of the library. In the afternoon, a picnic lunch was followed by a pick-your-own book session in which children received free comic books from Selby and made their own selections from a book drive organized by Southside.

Second-grade teacher Kellie Broom said students in her Southside classroom were eager to receive letters and videos from their “Tuttle buddies” throughout the year. It was especially interesting to watch the kids grow and progress academically over the past few months, she added. Despite the continuous stream of collaboration, many of the kids, and teachers, met in person for the first time at Saturday’s event.

Dave Marsh’s third grade class at Tuttle spent the year emailing and exchanging letters with Cherie Dennis’ third grade students at Southside.

“Some of our kids never get out of their neighborhood,” Marsh said. “The partnership was a good opportunity for them to meet other students their age and see what they were reading.”

Dennis and Marsh finally met face-to-face at the library. Dennis handed Marsh a stack of letters her class had written for Marsh’s class. In their letters, students swapped book recommendations and shared their favorite parts of books they read.

Xander Morris, a student in Dennis’ class, said the experience was educational. The 9-year-old’s mother, Jana Morris, said the program would help kids get excited about reading again. “These days a lot of kids have never even been to a library,” Morris said.

Tomas Dinverno, principal at Tuttle, said 26 of his students signed up for their first library card. “We want to continue to have that partnership to help our students understand the importance of reading and encourage them to do it,” Dinverno said.

Up with Books

“Up with Books" is a program connected to the Suncoast Campaign for Grade Level Reading. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort to increase the number of children who read proficiently by the end of third grade. Studies show that students who fail to meet this milestone have a harder time catching up in later grades. The campaign is partnering with area nonprofits, schools, business leaders and foundations to identify factors that impede literacy gains and to ensure that more children have access to resources that help them reach their literacy milestones.