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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Importance of Reading with Children


I sat on the couch and watched my mom's eyes fill with tears.  Her voice trembled, then stopped as she composed herself then read the final pages of Where the Red Fern Grows and my favorite character, Little Ann, was dying A tear rolled down Mom's cheek and on the other side of her, I could hear my brother sniffing.  Though it must have been over 30 years ago, I remember the texture of the couch and how my toes felt warm as I stuffed them between my mother and the cushions.  I remember the sound of her voice and even the tightness in my chest from sorrow as we enjoyed this story together.  Though I can't remember the words, I can remember the author's voice and tone as the sentences built pictures in my mind.  My childhood would have been very different without our nightly ritual of reading together.  My husband is the one who carries this torch in our family and I'm sure my children will have fond memories of the experience just as I do.

 Reading aloud exposes children to the world of language.  Shared stories allows families to explore ideas, values, traditions and books certainly provide a springboard for rich conversations about text to life connections.  Reading aloud builds imagination and teaches the love of a good book.  Reading aloud increases vocabulary, builds attention spans, and improves listening comprehension.  Did you know that reading to your child just 5 minutes a day can expose them to 350,000 words in a year.  In addition, reading to children strengthens the emotional bonds between the adult reader and the child, providing those positive parent-child connections essential to a child’s psychological health and academic growth. 
 Be sure to not just read fiction but non-fiction as well.  Over spring break my family many opportunities to explore a variety of non-fiction texts.  Reading together for a purpose brought our family closer and built memories.   On our road trip to the San Francisco we hit a “chains only” section of I-5.  Growing up in Central Oregon, my husband and I were always prepared for snow but had never had to put on chains.  Luckily, chains come with directions and we read them, re-read, asked clarifying questions, and we even did a dramatic interpretation of what we thought it might look like from the warm car before finally following them step-by-step.  The reading preparation certainly helped ready us for the actual event since the whipping winds and ten inches of slush had not be referenced in the manual.  In fact, there wasn’t even snow in the illustrations. My daughter yelled the directions so they could be heard over the wind while my husband and I worked as a team to put them on (I was more of the encourager and he was the doer).  When we got back in the car we were soaking with numb fingers and toes.  After recovering feelings in our extremities, we were able to laugh about it and even reflect on the reading experience, noting what the authors had left out and which new vocabulary words we learned. 
      Building family memories over non-fiction text seemed to be the theme of our trip.  We read to figure out the train system, enjoyed the historical facts at Alcatraz, and used text to defend our thinking on how we should spend our limited time.  My college age daughter seems to have developed her persuasive skills and ability to develop an argument because she was often the one who was able to sway the rest of the group into going where she wanted based on her carefully constructed presentation of appealing facts. 
    The ability to read well and for deep meaning is one of the most important gifts we can give our children through our actions as parents at home and educators at school.  In order to provide this gift, we need to be intentional with our actions and time.  I invite you to think about how you can include more time for reading for your family.  Whether following a recipe or enjoying storybooks, there are many opportunities each day where we can teach our kids to love reading and to learn from reading through our routine actions.  What are you reading with your child this week?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

July News

Last weekend I was in Bend for the Smith Rock Sunrise Half-Marathon. The race was featured in the newspaper on Sunday so we were at my parents’ enjoying breakfast and conversation over the Sunday Bend Bulletin.  Suddenly my son let out a shriek!  “When does school start this year?” Jacob gasped.  “Is summer almost over?”

In his quest to find his favorite section of the paper, he had stumbled upon the advertisements boldly announcing BACK TO SCHOOL sales!  Jacob’s panic was apparent.  “Didn’t summer just begin?”

I am happy to say that his sense of doom regarding September 6 is quite the opposite of my sense of elation and eager anticipation about the first day of school.  I am thrilled to be joining the Sexton Mt. team and as I’ve gone through the cupboards and drawers in my office, I feel like an archeologist uncovering buried treasures.  I’ve enjoyed learning about the history of the school through the countless notebooks, videotapes and files left behind by previous principals.  Great things have been happening here for 22 years and I’m eager for staff and students to return.

On Sunday I assured Jacob that he had seven more weeks before he’d go back to school. During that time, I’ll continue to get to know the building and teachers in preparation for a strong start to the 2011-2012 school year.  Included below are some things you can do to prepare for the upcoming year and information about much anticipated events.

Where do you read? 
Reading researcher Richard Allington recently shared his belief that the BEST way to prevent the summer learning backslide that so often happens between June and September is to have children READ!  Practice makes proficient and reading is an academic skill that positively influences all other content areas.  This research tidbit means that my family makes weekly visits to the library.  We buy books everywhere from garage sales to grocery stores.  While turning to books is second nature to my daughter, my son needs a bit more encouragement.  My secret weapon for, “I’m bored” is a bag of books.

When we got back from our trip to Hawaii last month I was looking through our pictures and found that our family read all over the big island.  We read by the pool, on the beach, in a lava tube, and at the airport.  Some of our reading explained what we were seeing and other reading was just for fun.  I was happy to know that an artifact from our journey showed evidence of our love of reading.

I know that Sexton Mt. kids love to read.  On my first visit to the school I met Alyssa, Reagan, Vivian and Katelyn.  All shared their passion for reading.   On another visit, Anneliese was lost in a book as she waited for a ride after school but she broke away just long enough to share that she too loved to read.  Later, first graders Emma and Desmond shared their love of poetry with me.  I can’t wait to learn about others’ interest in reading or the fires yet to be ignited.

I hope to spark enthusiasm for this important life skill by showing that reading is something that is enjoyed by many in different locations.  This summer I’d like to invite you to take pictures of your children or family reading.  Send pictures to me at  Teresa_Clemens-Brower@beaverton.k12.or.us and I’ll make a reading collage to display in our hallways. 


Ice Cream Social
Please mark your calendar for the Ice Cream Social.  On Thursday, September 1 from 4:00-6:00pm students can drop school supplies by the classroom and families can enjoy reconnecting with other families over ice cream.  Thanks to the PTC for sponsoring this event and to teachers who’ll be working late even before school begins.

Electronic Newsletter
Each week during the school year, I will send a Principal’s Newsletter to tell you about the teaching and learning I see happening at Sexton Mountain.  Paper copies will go home with the youngest or only child in a family unless the family opts to have the newsletter sent electronically.  If you would like to be added to the electronic-news list, please email me at  Teresa_Clemens-Brower@beaverton.k12.or.us with your child’s name and the word “newsletter” in the subject line.  By signing up for e-news, you’ll save a paper and receive the information more quickly than through backpack mail.

Staff Changes
We've had several staff changes since June 18.  Please join me in welcoming new staff and wishing well those who are off to new adventures.
     Tara Crippen-Bell will be joining us as our school psychologist.  She replaces Kathleen Wilson will serve students in our District as an autism consultant.
     Dave Robinson has joined the staff at McKay Elementary.
     Michelle Solberg will serve as our half-time counselor.  We will share her with Scholl’s Heights. 
     Aki Mori will be our administrative intern in the fall. As an aspiring administrator he will be involved in many aspects of our school.
     Margie True and Hristina Stoilov will serve students at Kinnaman Elementary next year.
     Linda Anderson, Don Martin and Cindy Cartmill retired and Eric Schwindt relocated
     We currently have an opening for a technology specialist who will teach classes to students in grades 1-5 as part of our specials rotation along with music, library and PE.  We are looking for a parent or two to serve on the interview team.  Please contact me if you are interested.

Classroom Placements
By August 1, each child will receive a letter from his or her 2011-2012 teacher.  We have a commitment to challenge every child in our school to high standards, whatever that child’s strengths and areas for growth.  It is our goal to have the make-up of all of our classrooms balanced in terms of gender, abilities, talents and challenges.  Mr. Martin, the teachers and I spent many hours putting together this complex puzzle in order to provide an optimal learning environment for every child.  Please rest assured that your child’s best interests were at the heart of our work.   

Thank you!
Thank you so much for making my first weeks at Sexton Mountain so special.  I’ve met with several parents, enjoyed learning about your children through the scrapbook pages they’ve made and I’ve appreciated the thoughtful notes and words of encouragement many of you have shared.  I see abundant evidence that this school is warm and welcoming.    I look forward to a wonderful 2011-2012 school year.
Fondly,



Teresa Clemens-Brower, Ed.D.
Principal