#JPSReads Update!

Guest Reader, Janet Schultz, at Sandy Hill!

We first told you about #JPSReads earlier this year and phase one is now complete! To kick things off in mid-January, District Media Specialist, Jan Staley, and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz, presented the plan at each elementary school with a slideshow, magic tricks, and Q & A. Students were provided with a participation sheet to set a personal goal that correlated with their grade level. Once their goal was met, they received a cling-on paw print to display in a window of their home. Every family member could participate and once a goal was met, you could set a new goal!

This could be your house if everyone is reading!

Teachers and principals across the district encouraged students to meet their goals and share what they were learning as they read and explored new genres and topics. Ms Staley was encouraged by one elementary school, in particular saying, “The principal did a fabulous job keeping the excitement going.  He interviewed students every day who had met their goals, asking favorite books, places they read, etc.  This school also had participation contests within the grades.  This excitement from the principal and teachers spread and the number of student goal forms were the highest in the district.” Numbers are still coming in from the Junior High and High School but so far, there is record of over 1300 participants!

Guest Reader, Deputy Eric Smith at Pinewood!

March is Reading Month across the country and #JPSReads is hitching up to it for phase two! Please check out the March Reading Month Calendar here. Students can be challenged with a new reading task each day and be entered to win the grand prize at the end of the month!

Finally, phase three of #JPSReads will take place at the end of the school year and, while there are still some details to arrange, it will involve a secret “Paw Patrol”! Staff members from the district will be driving around the neighborhoods looking for homes with multiple #JPSReads paw prints displayed and they will receive prizes!

Ms Staley says she loves hearing the stories from students about how their entire family has been involved with #JPSReads, even turning in goal sheets for their grandparents! “The students often have reading incentive programs that they are working on throughout the year, but the exciting thing about #JPSReads is seeing them get excited about their parents reading!! It really has touched many families in our community!  Over and over again, our volunteers, and parents that have come into our buildings have mentioned that their whole family is having fun with this, they love reading and working toward this goal together.”

Guest Reader, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink

“Reading is not just a “school subject”, that it takes a community’s commitment to raise our readers. We want to continue our district’s vision to build rich literacy skills at home as well as at school. Research proves that Readers are Leaders! Reading helps relax us and keep our minds active and growing. Reading also improves our thinking abilities, people skills, and helps us master communication in order to effectively collaborate and lead others. Grab your favorite books and start reading today!”

If you have questions about any of the phases of #JPSReads please ask your child’s teacher! Thank you to all of the families that are participating and we can’t wait to see more paw prints!

Guest Reader, Deputy Steigenga, at Bursley

Readers are Leaders!

MIII0041Don’t be surprised if you start to see stickers all over the Jenison community soon declaring, “JPS Reads” and you’ll probably want to join in on the fun!

Curriculum Director, Kristy Rogalla, Media Specialist, Jan Staley, Bauerwood Principal, Crystal Morse and Literacy Coach, Janet Schultz are partnering to capitalize on the excitement and popularity of the James and Giant Peach initiative. With this next phase, all Jenison citizens will be challenged to set their own specific reading goal and when it is reached, they receive their own cling-on letting everyone know they did it!

MIII9995According to Ms Schultz, “It will be great to drive through our district and notice all the paws displayed in the front of homes.  Our community will shine with the importance of READING!” Of course, you can also brag about your reading skills by putting your sticker on your car and give a little wave to others who’ve done the same!

But if you think this is just for our students, think again! “This is not just a school based reading program, but a way to get everyone in the community excited and involved in reading. We have talked to business leaders and also our senior citizen community members to join in the fun of showcasing our love of reading here in Jenison. Our students and community members will even have the opportunity to share favorite authors, favorite books, or even share reading photos on Twitter at #JPSReads.”

Parents – you play a critical role in your child’s interest in reading! “Together…We are Jenison!! We believe that the love of reading often starts inside of the family and as a school district we are here to grow, build upon, support, and encourage that love of reading!  Together with our families and community we are committed to continuing to foster a love of reading and learning in ALL our children.”
“Not all readers are leaders, but…All Leaders are Readers.”  – Harry Truman

This phase of JPSReads runs from January 16 – February 27 and will kick off all this week.



1448499790-4841895-james_giant_peach_ticketsWhen Junior High theatre director, Holly Florian, chose James and the Giant Peach for this year’s winter performance fifth grade teachers, Michelle U’Ren knew that she wanted to read the classic story aloud to her class. She knew it would help them appreciate the show even more to be familiar with the story.

But it didn’t stay specific to Ms U’Ren’s class! It didn’t take long before a district-wide project was born! Other teachers were interested in reading the story to their classes as well and and soon, Holly, Michelle, and Jan Staley, media specialist, were organizing the first ever district-wide read aloud, which came to be known as JPS Reads!

All of the teachers are encouraged by the response so far. “The feedback from teachers, students, and parents has been really positive.  Perhaps the most exciting part is hearing the connections being made at home!  There are many stories of families discussing James and the Giant Peach during dinner and younger kids begging older siblings to tell them what happens next in the story.


Story brainstorming in Mary Veldink’s 3rd grade Pinewood classroom

When Ms Florian was considering scripts for the junior high performance she was excited about the visual and production challenges posed by James and the Giant Peach. “[It] stood out to me right away as being a fantastic option – the story is so wonderful, and the stage version has many featured roles, which gives lots of students a chance to show off their performing skills. It will also be a technical challenge! Figuring out how to create a giant peach that rolls off the cliffs of Dover and into the Atlantic ocean is going to be a creative challenge for the entire production team.”

Not all teachers had a copy of the book but thanks to a grant from the Jenison Public Education Foundation, those teachers were provided a copy. Even our Spanish Immersion classrooms are reading the story in Spanish! In order to empower teachers, weekly emails are sent to participants offering suggestions for activities and ways to connect with other teachers in the project.  Each individual teacher can choose which activities they would like to implement within their own classroom. Lori Barr, Pinewood 6th grade teacher, is engaging students’ writing skills by having them write blog posts with their thoughts and questions. Check out their Letters to Ms Florian here

If you have ever wondered if reading at home matters, it does! “Statistics have shown that a powerful predictor of reading success is having a parent who personally reads aloud to their child 5–7 days a week. Our community read aloud, JPS Reads, will hopefully ignite the joy of reading and the community bond it builds within the classroom family…the hope is that this will then be talked about and become part of our individual family habits also.”

Congratulations to all the teachers, students and families who participated in the first JPS Read Aloud! We can’t wait for the play this January!



*Photo courtesy of goldstar.com

District-Wide Book Fair is a HIT!

MIII8484Last month parents and students enjoyed the first Jenison District-Wide Book Fair at the JCA! After considering the amount of time and resources used in the fall at individual elementary school book fairs, Jan Staley, Elementary Media Specialist, and her teams decided to pool their talents and hold one fair for all schools instead. After more than seventeen years of separate events this event was a trial run for the team but it ended up to be a successful one too! Scholastic publishers [partners in the event] were also anxious to see how it turned out as this hadn’t been done by any other school before!

MIII8483The event saw sales of more than $19,000 and Jan explains how that money will be distributed: “We usually made between $2,000-$4,000 per building with our separate fairs. With the District Wide Fair every school met their goal, and was given a profit bonus too.  Depending on student count each school was given between $700-$1,100 in free books from Scholastic Publishers and $500-$900 in cash profits for future collection development.”MIII8450

The wide selection was the number one joy for shoppers. The most popular titles being Rangers in Time, Dr Kitty and Serafina and the Black Cloak which all ran out of stock and had to be ordered. “Instead of just 5 or 6 cases of books that a normal fair has, we had 22 cases of books and just as many or more boxes of books for table displays.”

While Scholastic only publishes paperback books, Ms Staley has the current electronic reading trends in mind as well. Last year she submitted a grant and she is piloting a circulating eBook collection at Bauerwood.  “If stats show it is being used well we will develop a collection for other buildings.”

If you are worried that you missed this epic book event, fear not! The fun will be repeated next year.  “Having the Book Fair at the JCA was SUPER successful!   In fact, I’ve decided that for next year we’ll have both Book Fairs, which are normally in the individual buildings, at the JCA.  Our fall fair will be on Dec 5, 6 & 7 and our spring fair will be the end of April 2017.”

Mark your calendars for next year and a HUGE THANK YOU to the volunteers that helped make this event possible and bringing the excitement of reading to every Jenison student!







Pinewood Principal Takes the Reading Challenge!


Pinewood Principal, Rachael Postle-Brown never shies away from a challenge and this past Wednesday, Nov 12 she eagerly accepted the Principal Book It! Reading Challenge to read from bell to bell. Book it! is a program that Pinewood students participate in to promote and encourage reading and the foundation partners with Pizza Hut and students earn fun rewards for reading.  The past few years Book it! has done a Principal Challenge during National Young Readers Week and they ask Principals to read from the first bell to the final bell one day during the week.


And, of course, she didn’t read alone!  For 30 minute segments classes participated along with Mrs. Postle-Brown and all were excited to read together.  In conjunction with the district’s ongoing fundraising initiative, Your Change Can Change Hunger, all of the books Mrs Postle-Brown read were centered around the theme of generosity and families in need.  Rachael and the teachers added to the fun by dressing up as food items to “help make the reading fun and remind students what the change from Your Change Can Change Hunger was for.”  [Read more about the YCCCH program next week!]

Students of all ages benefit from seeing adults model reading because it helps them feel comfortable reading as well.  But, Rachael adds, “Beyond just modeling, reading stories can paint a powerful picture for students and are a great way to help them think outside of their normal environment and develop deeper understandings and empathy.”  As the students processed the stories they heard along with the greater message of Giving they were able to have thoughtful discussions as well.

Some of the books that Mrs. Postle-Brown read throughout the day included:  The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein [one of her all-time favorites], A Chair for My Mother by Vera B Williams and Too Many Toys by David Shannon.  Some of the others she recommends are The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The BFG by Roald Dahl and Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Carey.  All of these books were introduced to Rachael as a child by teachers who loved to read aloud and, hopefully, she is passing on the gift!

Oftentimes, students struggle with not only their reading skills but their interest in reading as well.  Rachael likes to remind them to “keep trying to improve their reading and find books and topics they love.  A good book opens up a whole new world to you; the characters can become your friends, the solutions and stories can be great life lessons.  Everything you read benefits you and helps you grow, keep reading.”

“At Pinewood we pride ourselves on being a family.  Taking time to come together and promote reading and caring is part of who we are.  Our students care about each other and our teachers will do anything to help students become better readers, even dress up like spaghetti and meat balls.”
– Rachael Postle-Brown, Principal

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Elementary Reading Initiatives

“The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand and enjoy the material.”

 – Charles Clark, “Building Fluency: Do It Right and Do It Well!” (1999)

In today’s world, reading is at the heart of everything. Whether it’s science, math, or social studies, being able to fluently navigate a book is critical to student success.

That’s why I’m so excited to share what’s going on at Bursley and Sandy Hill Elementary Schools within Jenison Public Schools.

To help sixth graders get “hooked” on great books, teachers at Bursley are implementing techniques from Harvey & Goudvis’ Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding.

This month, all sixth-grade teachers are reading Pictures of Hollis Woods, a realistic fiction book to their classes while modeling strategies that enhance reading, fluency, and comprehension.

Some of these techniques include:

  • drawing pictures
  • visualizing
  • making connections
  • formulating questions while reading, and
  • inferring.

After learning the comprehension strategies in a whole group setting, students must find their own book at their ability level, and then compare and contrast that book with the one they are hearing read in class. Armed with new skills, students are able to make fresh connections and offer valuable insights while reading something they love. We’re encouraged by the growth we see happening!

Sixth-graders at Sandy Hill are also working hard on comprehension skills such as recognizing root words and understanding prefixes and suffixes as part of the FUSION program. The FUSION program is a ground-breaking approach to reading intervention that was designed by the University of Kansas, and is expected to be published nationally due to its success. 

FUSION uses compelling literature to grab the attention of the reader. Examples of books used in this 6th-9th program include:

While different from the initiatives taking place at Bursley, the goal is the same: help kids improve their reading so they can more easily fall in love with reading.  

Thank you to principals Mrs. Garcia and Ms. Keehn for sharing these highlights with us!
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Question for you: What do you see happening in your child’s classroom that you feel deserves a moment in the spotlight? We’d love to hear about it!