BARRINGTON – As the controlled chaos of arrival time at Grove Avenue School reaches its climax with the morning announcements, two little girls let themselves into the office and have a seat. They look a little bit nervous, but they aren’t in trouble.
Far from it.
These two were chosen to read to Principal Cynthia Kalogeropoulos, or as she’s known around the school, Dr. K.
This daily occurrence is just one of the many parts of the reading program at Grove Avenue School in Barrington, and part of the reason they won the 2012-2013 International Reading Association’s Exemplary Reading Program Award for the state of Illinois.
Grove Avenue won the award once before in 2006-2007, and, like last time, the timing of their visit from the International Reading Association’s panel fortunately coincided with their yearly Family Reading Program.
While children at Grove Avenue are required to read at home every night, the Family Reading Program encourages them to add a little extra time for five weeks. Each year follows a theme, and this year’s theme was Peter Pan. For example, Kalogeropoulos explained that instead of reporting to teachers how many minutes they read, students were encouraged to “crow their minutes.”
The program also kicks off every year with a skit performed by the teachers. This year’s skit featured an illiterate Captain Hook who was terribly confused by a strange book called, “The Cat in the Hat.”
“I hope we are always a school of reading,” said Kalogeropoulos, principal of 28 years. “But during the five weeks of the reading program, there’s no doubt there’s a greater buzz.”
For the students, the buzz is caused by the opportunity for rewards. As they reach their accumulated reading minutes goal, classes are awarded prizes like pancake breakfasts, video game day, and even homework-free weeks.
However, while it would be easy to ride the coattails of classmates who love reading and skip doing your extra minutes, a student wouldn’t dare because he or she would miss The Big Event.
The students permitted to participate in The Big Event are those who individually met all of their reading quotas. These rewards are much bigger. Kindergarteners and first-graders will visit the Lincoln Park Zoo; second- and third-graders will visit the Museum of Science and Industry; fourth-graders will go to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum; and fifth-graders get to visit Camp Timber-lee.
Kalogeropoulos said it is rare that a student won’t participate.
Grove Avenue’s other reading programs include book clubs, Battle of the Books, and regular visits to the Barrington Library.
Reception from the school’s parents has been positive.
Maria Alex said her twin daughters Alexandra and Evangelia read so much for their kindergarten class that she wouldn’t even be able to single out just one book that they’ve worked on.
“They have Library Day here [at school] once a week and they get about three books,” Alex said. “Then we go to the Barrington Public Library every weekend and get those books as well, so we have quite a few.
“I think it’s a great program,” she added. “It helps parents get involved with their children. It rewards them for doing a great job. It gives them incentives to work harder.”