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District encourages summer reading with free books

Posted on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
The ending of the school year this week probably has school children thinking of usual summer fun — pool parties outside, sleeping late and playing video games.
School LogoOfficials with the Osceola County School District hope they also will work in time to read a couple of books during their school vacation so they can return in August at the same reading level.
To offer some motivation, School District students are being challenged to read for a combined 12 million minutes as part of the nationwide Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, which allows students to log their reading time online over the break.
District Superintendent Melba Luciano said the program is a great cure for what she calls the “summer slide,” when most students switch their minds off from most things academic.
“Kids read at school, but not so much at home on their own,” she said. “Last year was the first year we participated, we challenged the students to read 10 million minutes and they logged their minutes online and they did it.”
This summer, the bar has been raised to 12 million, and to encourage the higher amount of reading and make sure students have something to read at home, Luciano was out at Central Avenue Elementary on the final Monday of the school year handing out free books to students in kindergarten through third grade.
Thanks to a $7,000 grant from Walt Disney World, the district was able to distribute books at Central Avenue and 28 other elementary and K-8 schools.
“We found a thrift company that provided gently-used books for as little as 5 cents apiece. Thanks to Disney we were able to buy $5,000 worth of books,” Luciano said. “Our partners in the community also helped get together the supplemental materials like boxes and bags for the books. It’s amazing how the community came together for this.
“We’re hoping that by giving them books to take home the children will be encouraged to read more and go to the library and get more books.”
Central Avenue Elementary is ready for that, Principal Trenisha Simmons said, as the school’s media center will be open Wednesdays over the summer from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I’m excited that we’re able to get these books in their hands now to take home,” she said. “This way we can increase the size of their home libraries.”
The students’ reading minutes will be combined for their school’s total reading minutes, and they can be viewed in real time on the Scholastic Summer Challenge website over the summer at (  A mobile app also can be downloaded from the site where kids can log their reading minutes and parents can track their students’ reading.
The top 20 schools across the nation with the most reading minutes will be listed in the 2014 Scholastic Book of World Records.  Last year, two Osceola elementary schools — Floral Ridge and Reedy Creek — ranked ninth and 11th respectively, combining for nearly 4.7 million
reading minutes.
“This year we hope to have more schools make the list,” Luciano said.
The students at Central Avenue Monday seemed eager to make the top 20, as many compared the books in their bags and traded among classmates to get more books that they would enjoy reading.
Third-grader Gabriella Castillo said she likes reading action books and comedy chapter books, and said she can’t wait to get her online account set up and start logging some minutes with a
good book.
“I would read anyway over the summer, but now I plan on reading more,” the 9-year-old student said.