McVinney students prepare for summer reading

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PROVIDENCE — As schools across the diocese prepare for summer vacation, students at Bishop McVinney School, Providence, will have extra reason to pick up a book, or six, this summer. This year, four classes will have the opportunity to participate in Read to Succeed, a nonprofit summer reading program that allows kids to earn scholarship money while keeping up their academic skills by reading.

Read to Succeed was founded in 2008 by Barbara and Ralph Papitto as a way to fight the loss of academic skills over the summer, a phenomenon that can happen to all kids, but to which students from less privileged economic backgrounds are especially vulnerable. The program operates in three South Providence elementary schools, drawing participants from Community Preparatory and Highlander Charter schools as well as Bishop McVinney.

The program is simple: each student chooses six books from a list pre-approved by his or her teacher and receives those books at the start of the summer at no cost. Then, the student has until the start of the next school year to read all six books and pass an online comprehension test for each one. If the student passes all six tests, he or she receives a $1,000 scholarship in the Rhode Island Collegeboundfund.

“The immediate benefit is it keeps their reading levels high over the course of the summer, while a lot of students, regardless of economics, succumb to what’s called the ‘summer learning loss’,” explained David Guertin, administrator of the program.

While the program started out small, over the years it has continued to grow and now includes about 330 students from four grade levels. Students may participate in the program for up to five summers, earning as much as $5,000 in college scholarship funds before they enter high school.

“I knew we had a good program when the first year we had it, we had a dinner [to kick off the event],” said founder Barbara Papitto. “And the kids, they ran in to see the books, not the food.”

The enthusiasm for reading was reflected at the program’s kickoff event on April 13, when Bishop McVinney students had the opportunity to choose their books for the summer and hear from program administrators as well as Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.

“One of the most important things you can do in school is make sure you can continue to practice,” Mayor Elorza told the students. “We have to make sure we continue to provide opportunities for our kids so they can learn and grow.”

After the presentation, students ran for the tables of books set up according to grade level. The books spanned a variety of genres, including classics as well as popular young reader series, historical fiction, fantasy and sports novels.

Students recorded the names of books they wanted to read, then passed the information on to their teachers, who would make sure all the books were delivered before summer vacation.

One rising seventh-grader, Shanely Reyes, said her favorite book was “Kelsey Green, Reading Queen,” an appropriate choice about a young student who competes for the title of “Top Reader” in her grade. Shanely’s mother, Zaidyn, spoke about the family’s experiences with the program.

“This is a great program. It allows the kids to build confidence in themselves,” she said. “It’s like a win-win situation. For me it’s a positive thing.”

Bishop McVinney Principal Lou Hebert said he noticed a change in the students after they participated in the program, especially in their willingness to do reading outside of class.

“I think they’re much more interested in reading other types of works aside from the assigned works,” he said. “With this, there’s more continuity. They come back in the fall and they’re much more able to pick up on it.”

Hebert said he noticed a correlation in the students who regularly participate in the program and those who achieve honor roll and high grades on their report cards.

“It helps for these kids to have these books around the house,” he said. “For these kids to be involved in this, it’s a huge benefit.”