Reading Rocks

Curious George acts out a book for kids as ZooMontana community relations director LeaAnn Yucha reads a book at Reading Rocks at Central Park on July 12, 2018.

What keeps kids reading during summer vacation?

Giving them books and volunteers to read with. Last year, Reading Rocks, a program of the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, distributed more than 3,400 books and logged 443 volunteer hours. This great, long-running program is, once again, recruiting adults and teens to volunteer a few lunch hours this summer to read to kids or listen to them read.

"We rely on community volunteers to support and sustain the program," says Julie Whitworth, foundation event coordinator. "They truly make the difference. We welcome all volunteers from teenagers to retired citizens."

The goal of Reading Rocks is to stop the Summer Slide. Whitworth explains: "Children who do not read over the summer will lose up to three months of reading skills. Summer reading loss is cumulative. By the time these children reach middle school, the achievement gap has grown to 3 years.

"The best predictor of summer reading is access to books, both inside the home and in the community. Unfortunately, lack of access to books has a greater impact on low income children than their higher income peers," Whitworth says.

Reading Rocks focuses on being accessible to economically disadvantaged children, but the program welcomes all children. It is designed to be fun.

Volunteers have fun, too. Spending a summer noon hour in a city park reading with children is a wonderful way to get fresh air and liven up your day. It's an easy way to serve our community and make a real difference in the lives of children.

New volunteers must attend a one-hour training on June 10 or June 11. It will be offered each day from noon to 1 p.m. in Room 219 of Lincoln Education Center 415 N. 30th St.

More information about Reading Rocks and a brief volunteer application are online at www.efbps.org. Whitworth can be reached at 245-4133.

Volunteers are asked to choose the days of the week and the location where they wish to volunteer and to commit to helping at five sessions during the summer. Volunteers need to arrive by noon and help set up. Then a volunteer storyteller will read a book aloud to the entire group. After that, volunteers listen to individual children read and help each one pick out a book and a prize to take home.

Reading Rocks will run from June 17 through July 25. Each session goes from 12:15 to 1 p.m. Here is the schedule:

  • Mondays: Orchard Elementary
  • Mondays and Wednesdays: Castle Rock Park
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Central Park
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Pioneer Park
  • Wednesdays: Gorham Park

Reading Rocks locations also offer the Billings Public Schools summer lunch program with nutritious meals provided free of charge to children and teens age 18 and younger. The meals are served from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays June 5 to Aug. 10. Adults may purchase a lunch for $4.05. No lunches will be served July 4-5.

Please consider adding Reading Rocks to your summer. Volunteer to spend a few lunch hours in a city park with children and books. 

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