A bite out of illiteracy

At Glen View School, soft-spoken second-grader Adolfo Aldana pulls his Sharks paraphernalia from a bag – a hockey puck, a comic book, a frisbee and the ticket to Friday’s game that he saved.
-Ie remembers that he left the hat at home, the one signed by No. 27, Bryan Marchment.
At El Roble School, a group of seven students, from kindergarten through second-grade, receive certificates and books, and – more importantly – time out of class to be honored for their achievement.
As part of Gilroy Unified School District’s Just Read! program, the students have all read 1,000 books or more since the beginning of the school year. Adolfo has completed 1,330 in both English and Spanish, and received a personal invitation to a Sharks hockey game for his efforts.
These students all know the importance of reading, something their teachers attribute in part to Just Read!, a literacy program designed to develop students’ interest
. in and commitment to reading, and which is now in its third year at GUSD.
. “They are aware of it now and parents are
– aware,” said Christel Morley, a first-grade teacher whose two students, Alexandra Cabreros and Nicholas Ahmadkhani, are in the 1,000 Book Club at El Roble. “Everyone is making a concerted effort. There’s a goal to work toward.”
All the students nod vigorously when asked if they are proud of their achievement. Their teachers echo the sentiment, eager to sing the praises of their students.
“Our class has read over 4,000 books,” said Pat Nelson, a second-grade teacher at El Roble.
It’s this enthusiasm for reading that district officials are trying to foster in students. School district officials have targeted literacy, and the Just Read! program, along with teaching methods, are part of that focus, according to Rich Imler, principal of Luigi Aprea School, where the emphasis on reading is measurable in student test scores.
. “We’ve noticed a trend over the past two years with our Just Read! program and literacy focus, where our assessments in reading are coming up,” he said.
Having a goal and incentives are important in getting students to read. Teachers offer such things as a star for every 10 books a student reads, and at some schools, if they reach their goal, the principals get involved.
At Glen View, principal Marilyn Ayala will spend a day on the roof of the school if students reach the goal of 59,183 books. As Of April 2, the school was at 49,553.
At El Roble, principal Martha Martinez will kiss a pig if students complete 64,459 books. On April 2, the school was at 46,932. The idea of incentives for reading, espe-I ‘daily economic ones, has come under fire at ‘the state level, where Gov. Gray Davis’ tecent reading bill, signed into law earlier ‘this month, sets aside $2 million for schools ‘that read a certain number of books.
“‘• However, Imler said incentives work in getting students to read, and the $2 million will be a boon to schools.
.• “In my opinion, that is going to help our effort,” he said.
Part of the argument against incentives is
• ‘that some believe students will rush through books to reach their goal and not comprehend what they are reading. But students do receive at least some understanding, according to Imler.
“That’s hound to have an improving stand with that student,” he said. “More reading is going to improve reading ability. That carries over to other subject areas. The skill of reading is essential.”
Districtwide, the number of books students have read is 400,020, or 77 percent of its goal of 519,005 books.
San Ysidro School and South Valley Junior High have already exceeded their goals, San Ysidro by 1,157 for a total of 21,740 books read, and South Valley by 4,921 for a total of 20,921.
An important part of the program is parents, according to kindergarten teacher Roberta Bertero, whose students Johnny Simas and Lindsay Cabreros are in the 1,000 Book Club.
“It takes the parents being involved,” she said. “This will stay with them all their lives.”
Adolfo took the initiative to get his parents involved with his reading education.
“When I was in first grade, my mom didn’t read to me a lot,” he said. “When I was in second grade, I told my mom to start reading to me, and she started reading to me a lot.”
Back at El Roble, the students eye their certificates and new hooks. Lindsay shyly answers that she likes the book, “Max,” while Johnny and fellow kindergartener Marissa Ahmadkhani agree that “The Hungry Caterpillar” is their favorite. Second-grader Melisa Garcia likes the old standard, The Cat in the Hat.”
When asked what she likes about reading, Alexandra simply replies, “Words.”
Nicholas, the older brother of Marissa, and second-grader Anthony Alonzo, both in the 1,000 Book Club, espoused the benefits of reading.
“It gets you in a lot of places,” Nicholas said.
“It gets you more information,” Anthony added.
Book Count
SCHOOL GOAL READ (April 2)
Eliot 29,380 23.297
El Roble 64,459 46.932
Glen View 59.183 -49,553
Jordan 43,000 29.006
Las Animas 82566 49,839
Luigi Aprea 42.500 32,040
Rod Kelley 88,094 70,199
Rucker 40,000 37,690
San Ysidro 20,583 21,740
Brownell 25,000 11,937
SVJH 16,000 20,921
GHS 7,700 6,605
Mt. Madonna 540 261
District Total: 519.005 400,020
(77.07 percent)

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