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November 22, 2016

Van Wezel Summer Learning Program Impacts Student Success

Putting a book in the hands of a child — it is a simple task. But one that is incredibly rewarding. Making sure their teachers and parents are prepared to encourage reading and early literacy; that makes it even more rewarding.

This summer the Van Wezel offered early learning sites, a Summer Learning Series connected to “Pete the Cat” and “Teacher From the Black Lagoon” as part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Over 200 students read books, played theatre activities, and shared the experience with their families.

But what was the impact? How do we know the reward? It’s in the smiling face of the child, the connection with their teachers, or the conversations they have with their parents. It’s the newfound love of books, and actually getting to take one home with them.

It started with a teacher workshop — making sure the classroom teacher understood how to integrate theatre to make the book engaging. It continued with classroom visits by a teaching artist. It ended with a Family Literacy Night where parents and children interacted together to explore books and even take one home!

How do we know it goes beyond the summer? The children were taking the experience home with them. During one of our summer Family Literacy Nights, a parent was excited to meet the Van Wezel teaching artist because her son had been talking about her all week. Later that evening, he (and all the children) were overjoyed by receiving a copy of “Pete the Cat.” Now, he can go beyond talking about what he did in school, he can show her.

Many of these children came to see Pete the Cat in October at the Van Wezel for our Schooltime Performance. Instead of a summer slide, these students had a summer success.

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