MADISON — It’s no surprise that kids love story time and after a short break, community members and elementary school students are eagerly awaiting this month’s Read Along Program.
“This is a wonderful tradition in Madison,” says Kelly K. Spooner, principal of the Kathleen H. Ryerson Elementary School. “Our Ryerson students look forward to this event each year. The connection to our community is so important for our students and staff.”
This partnership between local businesses and Madison schools brings volunteers from the community into elementary school class to read books chosen by the classroom teachers.
“It’s just so much fun,” says Craig Bernard, who has been participating as a reader for the last 15 years. Bernard’s business, Madison Financial Planning, has also been a financial supporter of the event, with all his employees participating in the Read Along annually.
“The children are at such a good age, they’re little sponges,” he says. “There is something to be said about having a physical book and that direct interaction with the students.”
Usually occurring in June, the annual event was not held at its usual time due to COVID and remote learning for all students.
Now, thanks to Zoom, all the local elementary classrooms will be visited virtually by parents and community members between Thursday, Jan. 14 and Friday, Jan. 15 with books in hand.
“So many people, especially business people and people with families, are used to doing on line meetings that it’ll be much easier for them to adapt to reading to the children this way than if we had done it six months ago,” says Eileen Banisch, executive director of Madison Chamber of Commerce.
Bernard is confident that the Zoom readings will still be something unique and different to captivate the students.
“You just have to make it work,” he adds. “You have to try to make it a unique experience. I think the fact that the Zoom experience is not new to them, they’ve already had some experience with it, I think they’re very adaptive.”
All the books that are read during the event are donated to the individual classrooms to be added to their libraries.
The titles chosen include “Every Little Letter” by Deborah Underwood, “Grumpy Little Monkey” by Suzanne Long, “I Can’t Do That Yet” by Pia Cordova, “The Bad Seed” by Jory John and “Rescue & Jessica – A Life Changing Friendship” by Jessica Rensky & Patrick Downes.
The following businesses, families and civic organizations contribute financially to make this event possible - Law Office of Tracey P. Couto, LLC, Guilford Savings Bank, Hammonasset Dental, Kearney Insurance Agency, Madison Financial Planning, Madison Rotary Foundation, Carmen and Justin Murphy, Ed Riley of Wells Fargo Advisors. RJ Julia Booksellers and the Walz Family.
“It’s just a great way to connect the community with the school community,” Banisch says.
Spooner is as excited for the event as all the community members.
“There is nothing better than to listen to a great story from a member of our community who values and appreciates education as much as we do,” she says.