By Andreas Yilma Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — Woodland Regional High School students took an unofficial national reading holiday and stretched it out to read to local elementary school students for a whole month.
Dr. Seuss Day, March 2, is celebrated across the country as National Read Across America Day. Woodland’s National Honor Society members decided to take it a step further and implement Read Across America Month for the second time as part of their community service event, which began March 1 and concluded Wednesday.
All 55 Woodland senior NHS members participated in 48 virtual read-a-loud sessions in March.
Seniors read to classes in kindergarten through fifth grade from both Prospect and Laurel Ledge elementary schools, said Jodie D’Alexander, Woodland’s library media specialist, NHS co-adviser and student book club co-adviser.
D’Alexander said she, alongside co-adviser Alissa Becker, did some research and chose books from the school library and her public library to make a collection of books from which the high school students could choose. Students messaged elementary school teachers to get their approval for the books while other teachers made requests, she noted.
“It’s their way of giving back to their local elementary schools and their former teachers, and just reinforcing the importance of reading and that’s really what Read Across America is,” D’Alexander said of Woodland’s students. “It’s usually just a day, but we’ve taken it a step further. We’ve made it a month.”
Read Across America Month was a fun experience to interact with elementary students, said Lexi Landrigan, who read “The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read” to third-graders at Prospect Elementary School in honor of Women’s History Month.
“I also thought when we were reading to them, they were really into it, they enjoyed it, they were engaged and asked many questions,” Landrigan said. “I thought it was a really cute experience that we could share with them.”
Prospect Elementary third-grade teacher Elena M. Guerra said her students loved the opportunity to connect with the high school students.
“We were lucky to have two opportunities to have readers join us virtually,” Guerra said. “Students loved meeting the older students and enjoyed the books that were read to them.”
Woodland student Ethan Michaud, who read “Three Ways to Trap a Leprechaun,” said it’s good to show younger students the importance of reading and what high school life is like.
Zach Drewry, who read “A New Day,” said most of the books offered a moral or lesson. He also recalled being in elementary school and older students coming to read to him.
“I think everybody involved really enjoyed it because it’s just such a simple thing, and you could see joy on kids’ faces and that can bring joy to even when you’re the one reading as well,” Drewry said.
Landrigan said, “I think it’s almost like a full-circle moment for us because we were those little kids getting read those books … and now it’s kind of fun how we are those high school kids.”
Michaud said the younger students were “very excited.”
“Even once I finished the book, they asked me maybe one or two questions about the book, but then they asked me about 15 (questions) just about me,” he said. “It gets kids looking up to you.”
Drewry said the program is particularly beneficial for students who may not have older siblings or consistent parental involvement.
“I think growing up some micro-memories are like parents or older siblings reading you a book before you go to bed at night,” Drewry said. “Just sitting sit down and reading something like that to them, kind of giving kids experience who may not have had something like this before, is a great and rewarding feeling as well.”
Landrigan agreed it was a rewarding experience.
“We talked about ourselves with them and they liked asking us questions about ourselves,” she said. “So you could tell they were really engaged, and I felt like the whole experience was really rewarding and you could tell the kids were interested.”