Belle Fourche Elementary schools awarded grant for summer reading program

December 30, 2018

BELLE FOURCHE –– Belle Fourche students going into first- through fourth-grades next fall will have the opportunity to participate in a summer reading program in an effort to reduce summer reading loss.

Belle Fourche Elementary Principal Julie Hatling told the Pioneer Wednesday that the program is a collaborative effort between the school, the United Way, and Black Hills Reads. Black Hills Reads is a United Way initiative that partners with local organizations to address the challenges of reading achievement.

According to the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Initiative, research spanning 100 years shows that students lose ground academically when they are out of school for the summer. The problem is particularly acute among low-income students who lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement in the summer, which slows their progress toward third-grade reading proficiency. Additionally, it exacerbates the achievement gap with their middle-class peers.

“So that’s kind of where we were coming from with our $5,000 request … to lessen that summer learning loss,” Hatling said.

The $5,000 grant was recently awarded to the Belle Fourche School District from Black Hills Reads.

The summer program will be structured as a reading challenge and is slated to be launched in May. When students meet a preset goal of minutes read, they will be rewarded with wristbands to the carnival that will be in town during the 100th Black Hills Roundup next July.

Hatling said she’s excited to take advantage of the reading initiative, “And we really look forward to working with Black Hills Reads in the future.”

She said she plans to work the United Way reading program in conjunction with the Black Hills State University’s Smarter Summer program, which involves juniors and seniors in the university’s education department teaching and interacting with students in the summer reading program.

“It’ll be great for the college students to have a chance to read one-on-one and in small groups with students,” Hatling said. “It’ll be great for the students and then we can record their minutes toward their carnival bracelet (wristband).”

It will be good experience for the elementary students and college students, alike, Hatling said.

“And they’ll work with the college students as well to make sure that for whatever chunk of time they spend reading together in the summer, it meets their existing goals from the school year,” she said. “So those goals for their reading are kind of carried forward into the summer.”

The program is intended for readers at all levels.

“We’re hoping to get a pretty diversified group of readers so we can keep the kids that are working above grade level going,” Hatling said. “But we also do want to work with those students who could really benefit from the extra reading instruction with the Black Hills State students and keep their momentum going.”

Hatling said she’s unsure how many students will be able to participate in the program but said that the entire $5,000 grant will go toward funding the carnival wristbands. Some details are still being ironed out and will be available as the program nears.

Hatling said her goal for the program is to increase collaboration with families and the school throughout summer months as well as supporting the community by ensuring students and families get to experience the carnival during the annual rodeo celebration.

“… to make sure that kids who are at risk of sliding back in their reading skills over the summer have a chance, along with their families and the school, to lessen that summer slide so that they enter the following school year ready for the next grade level,” she said.

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