A wonderful long-standing tradition continues to flourish at Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary School. The Pages and PJ’s’ community event that began nine years ago is an outstanding example of a terrific commitment by community members and staff to encourage the love of reading. Since 2007, hundreds of individuals gather together for an evening to of fun reading activities. I have been very fortunate for the past five years to participate in this terrific community gathering at Santa Cruz Garden Elementary School.
Principal Ms. Kerry le Roux, her staff and wonderful members of the Home and School Club continue to embrace the joy of reading by creating this special week of reading events that are culminated by the Pages to PJ’s’ activity. Principal le Roux has provided us with an overview of this terrific even and how it got started:
“For a number of years, Santa Cruz Gardens Elementary has been hosting an evening of reading for students and the neighboring community. Started back in 2007 by 2nd grade teacher Jen Field (who now teaches Kindergarten), the idea was to celebrate reading by having her students and their parents get together in her classroom and participate in an evening of read a-louds, comfortably dressed in pajamas, and ending the evening with milk and cookies. Pretty soon word spread, and before long this lovely tradition became a school-wide one, coordinated by parents on the Home & School Club, and involving all grade levels, as well as the extended neighborhood community children who all come out to participate.”
This year’s event, held on March 1st, 2016 – as part of a week of reading celebration called “Love of Reading Week” – began with a short assembly where Principal Kerry le Roux highlighted the importance of reading for students’ ongoing academic success. Quoting the 1987 Nagy & Herman study, she pointed out that a student who reads consistently for an average of 20 minutes each school night from Kinder to 6th grade will have read an equivalent of 60 more school days. Over the course of a year, this “20 minutes a night” reading practice exposes students to 1.8 million words per year, and could place them in the 90th percentile on standardized tests.
Following the assembly, at this year’s event, the gathered audience of PJ-clad children (and a large number of adults too) moved to various classrooms within the school to hear read a-louds from volunteer readers. These local celebrity readers included a veterinarian, a baseball coach, a former principal, our current Superintendent, a firefighter, a police officer and a local Santa Cruz author, Sylvia Patience, who read from her book “Toto’s Tale and True Chronicles of Oz.” Each child engaged with three different reading groups throughout this wonderful fun evening.
Finally, our excited students bring their precious stuffed animals to the library for the annual “Stuffed Animal Sleepover” where they tucked their cuddly friends in for the night before stopping by the milk and cookies table and heading home to bed.
Principal le Roux says it well, “…reading is the center of everything we do at Santa Cruz Gardens. Teachers have leveled libraries in their classrooms for easy access to fiction and nonfiction books, and every grade level participates in a combination of silent reading, partner reading and read-a louds on a daily basis. Teachers utilize role model writing (“mentor” texts) to teach reading strategies. Our library is open at recess and lunch; each child knows his/her reading level and chooses “just right” books that challenge them just enough but not so much that they give up. Students participate in regular reading celebration assemblies where they are recognized and rewarded for their reading growth.”
A special thank you to our wonderful staff and community members, who continue to embrace our fantastic long-standing tradition for the love of reading at Santa Cruz Gardens.