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Turning pages at the playground

Literacy Night at Glavin Playground highlights Parks and Rec partnership with Read by 4th

Summer camper Connor Udris designs a Hulk bookmark at the A&W Literacy Night in Port Richmond. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

From “Last Stop on Market Street” to “Murder, She Wrote,” there was a book for every age at last Monday’s Literacy Night at Glavin “A&W” Playground in Port Richmond.
Hundreds of complimentary books were available to both beginner readers and bookworms alike thanks to a partnership between Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Read by 4th initiative.
The Free Library of Philadelphia manages the citywide campaign, which seeks to double the number of children reading at grade level by fourth grade in Philadelphia by 2020.
Two out of three Philadelphia school children do not read at grade level by fourth grade, according to statistics published by Read the 4th.
Parks and Rec has been involved for a couple of years and this year, piloted a tailor-made program that includes five styles of Read by 4th to fit the needs of each facility, according to Meka Perez, wellness and Read by 4th coordinator for Parks and Rec.
Styles include drama with literacy, KEYSPOT literacy, books sent home with campers and book reports returned, the traditional Read by 4th program, and one-on-one tutoring with Philadelphia Youth Network workers.
Parks and Rec partnered with Tree House Books, a nonprofit in North Philadelphia, to provide books for the event.
Tree House Books had a goal of donating 50,000 books in 2017 to as many kids in the Philadelphia area and donated 21,000 to Parks and Rec in May, according to Perez.
Any facility that runs an after-school or summer camp, including Glavin, received books.
More than 84 sites received books, Perez said.
Distributing the books to children at the facilities was the first part.
Engaging their minds and measuring the impact of the books was also part of the program.
“We have distributed 6,000 book reports. We made them drawing reports instead of written reports so the kids would have more fun with it in summer camp,” Perez said. “We’re due to collect those the last day of camp and we’re going to count them all and hopefully, we’re reaching those age groups for reading.”
Derek Muller, recreational leader 1 at Glavin, designed the Literacy Night event.

“I hope that through the Literacy Night, the community not only increased their access to books and left with the gift of sharing reading time with their children, but I also hope that they look forward to future events that bring the community together at A&W,” he said.

Former assistant recreation leader Bridget Cole and recreation leader 1 Derek Muller help kids make bookmark crafts. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

Aside from each child receiving 10 free books, Muller and former assistant recreation leader Bridget Cole helped the kids make bookmarks, and mystery readers read books to the crowd inside the facility.

Orlando Rendon, deputy commissioner for Parks and Rec, was one of the mystery readers.
“I read to my two boys every night and you should ask your parents to do the same,” he said before choosing a child from the crowd to provide a book.
Michael Flinn, 3, was the first child to have his book, “Michael Recycles,” read by Rendon to the group of eager children.
“I really like the event,” said his mother, Megan. “It makes the kids realize reading is fun and it’s nice to do it in a group. Involving the kids is important.”

Orlando Rendo, deputy commissioner for Philadelphia Parks and Rec, reads “Michael Recycles” to children at the A&W Literacy Night. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

Another child who participated in the event was Connor Udris, 7, who attends summer camp at Glavin.
The best part was “when I read the Justice League book because Green Lantern is my favorite,” Connor said as he put finishing touches on his green, Hulk bookmark.
As parents browsed through books with their children, pointing out childhood favorites, camp counselor Geri Logan and PYN worker Bianca Briglio scooped water ice for a good cause.
Proceeds from the water ice sales went toward Alex’s Lemonade Stand, the charity District 2 PYN workers decided to support this summer.
To make the event even sweeter, children who returned book reports by Monday received a small gift for participating.
Whether it was making bookmarks or reading books, getting children excited about reading was key.
“Our ultimate goal is to help undergird the summer reading loss that a lot of kids endure and to help make our kids in Philadelphia more competitive because with the educational system and lack of money, our kids are suffering. We’re trying to undergird weaknesses in the system right now as best we can,” Perez said.

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