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WMS students learn to LOVE reading

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By Bryan Marshall

Bethany Findley never really cared for reading.

The Williamstown Middle School sixth grader would rather watch TV than turn the pages of a novel.

“I used to not be able to read that well,” Findley said. “I used to be one of the lowest people in the class in reading.”

That has changed since she joined a specialized reading class taught by Kasey Kennedy with assistance by

Carleen Ficker, Response to Intervention (RIT) coordinator for Williamstown elementary and middle schools.

The class was designed to help those students who struggle to read or had no interest in the subject.

“She had us pick books that we might like and once I started reading it, I got into it,” Findley said. “I decided to read more. Now, after I do my homework, I get my book and start reading. I read for fun now. I went to the library and got two books.”

Findley said being better at reading has also helped her in other classes because she reads and comprehends the subject matter better.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Findley is able to meet one-on-one with Ficker for individualized instruction.

“It’s helps me because I know if I get something wrong, nobody will laugh at me,” she said. “She helps me.”

Kennedy said the class started after Principal David Johnstone asked her if she could do something to help struggling readers.

The third-year teacher has 15 students in class.

“The biggest thing I find is that if they are not a reader by middle school, it is really hard to get them to want to be a reader,” Kennedy said. “It’s really hard to change their thoughts about reading.”

At the beginning of the class, Kennedy asked Ficker to come in and give a book talk.

Ficker brought the top 20 books that she believed the students would enjoy reading.

“The kids really got into it,” Kennedy said. “She sat them in a circle. She would turn the lights off to set the mood for a book.”

Later the students were able to choose their own book to sign out.

They were required to read for at least 25 to 30 minutes each class period.

“I had a few at first that were like, ‘Are you serious?’” Kennedy said. “But, once you let them choose something for themselves and find something they like to read, they just take off with it.”

Ficker said the students were given incentives at times, like popcorn parties and UK posters.

To celebrate their success, Kennedy and Ficker took the class to LaRosa’s in Dry Ridge on Dec. 9 for pizza.

Buddy LaRosa, owner of the franchise, made time to talk to the students.

“I see some bright, young people here,” he said. “I’m excited for all of you for your future.”

Kennedy said the experience of meeting Buddy was important for the students.

While the students were supposed to read five books since class started, some have more than doubled that goal.

“We had unconditional belief in them,” Ficker said. “You believe in them sometimes when they don’t believe in themselves. That’s the biggest part.”

“What I’ve heard more than anything from the students is to just have someone there who will sit down and talk to them,” she said. “Honestly, in that class, all of them have made gains. It’s pretty amazing. The other thing is they are all reading.”

The students who are on the A/B Honor Roll in the class have asked if they can tutor elementary students to share the knowledge they have gained about reading.

The students’ newfound love for reading has been evident even after they leave the class.

“I have them in English class, too, and they always have their books with them,” Kennedy said. “If they have some extra time, what they want to be doing is reading.”