HARRISONBURG — Over the course of a week and a half, the United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County hosted 13 reading parties for area elementary school students, which were attended by close to 1,000 students.
The reading parties have been offered every summer for the past six years as part of the United Way’s “We Read to Succeed” initiative. Thursday’s reading party was the last of the summer.
While students are out of school, they can fall behind in their reading, or simply forget that reading is an option, said Tashfia Hasan, coordinator of community impact.
“Our goal as a council is to make sure they have what they need to be successful in and out of school,” Hasan said.
Reading parties are a great way to mix reading with playing, to highlight that reading is not just a task assigned by a teacher, but can be a fun activity.
The party started with Sandra Quigg, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, reading a book highlighting the importance of reading and what the world would be like if books and words went away.
Students also played literary games at different stations and finished up with a puppet show.
Each game had a reading component of some kind.
Deb VanHorn, an employee with Rockingham Insurance, was volunteering on Thursday at the Jenga and Bananagrams station. She has volunteered at reading parties before and said she enjoys seeing the excitement expressed by students when they’re at the parties.
“It’s a great way to spend time with kids and help them learn,” VanHorn said. The games are the aspect kids enjoy the most, and “competing with each other.”
With Bananagrams, the game VanHorn was in charge of, it was able to be customized depending on the age of students. For the younger ones, VanHorn would ask them to find a certain letter. For the older students, they could actually play the game, which is similar to Scrabble.
At the end of the day, the reading parties are meant to associate reading with a fun experience.
“We just want students to stay excited about reading,” Hasan said.