Arcadia | To the delight of young boys and girls, Bishop Frank J. Dewane read a book to children at Casa San Juan Bosco farmworker housing community of Catholic Charities Diocese of Venice Inc. in Arcadia.
The 39 children, from kindergarten through fourth grade, were participating in a summer afternoon reading program that was part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, and made possible through the support of the Patterson Foundation with partnerships with the Community Foundation of Sarasota and the United Way Suncoast.
Bishop Dewane read “The Giving Tree,” a children’s picture book by Shel Silverstein. The book follows the lives of a female apple tree and a boy who develop a relationship with one another. The tree is very “giving” and the boy evolves into a “taking” teenager, man, then elderly man. While the boy ages in the story, the tree addresses him as “Boy” his entire life.
While reading the book, the Bishop made sure each of the children, who were seated attentively on the floor, could see the illustrations and pointed out some of the important details. Afterward, the Bishop asked the inquisitive children about what lessons they learned.
Based on the questions posed by Bishop Dewane and the responses he received, the children understood the positive messages from the book about giving and having a caring relationship with nature and those around them.
The summer reading program at Casa San Juan Bosco is three afternoons a week in June and July, and is part of a program that includes the arts and educational activities. Throughout the summer the children were encouraged to read as many books as they could. The older children and volunteers would also read to the others in smaller groups. Throughout the summer, the children keep track of all the books they read, and then write a short synopsis on each book to get credit.
By late June, Janet Seguera had read 10 books, which were marked in shiny stars on the Summer Reading Challenge board. “I love to read and sometimes read to my younger sisters. By reading, I learn so much about wonderful places and people. It’s fun.”
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is part of a national campaign which unites community partners across the nation to make reading proficiently by the end of third grade a priority. This is to address the fact that two-thirds of children in fourth grade cannot read at grade level. While it is understood that parents and good preschool teachers teach reading from birth through third grade, in fourth grade students must use their reading skills to learn, and teachers no longer teach students how to read.
Locally, the communitywide effort includes Manatee and Sarasota counties, as well as the Catholic Charities program in Arcadia. The effort focuses on helping all children, especially those from low-income families, succeed in school and life by ensuring they read on grade level by the end of third grade.
Bishop Dewane said he was delighted to be a part of this outreach and thanked representatives of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for recognizing the Catholic Charities program as worthy of their outreach.
“It was an honor to read for the children and a privilege to be here to support this reading program for these young boys and girls in Arcadia,” Bishop Dewane said. “Reading is an important foundation of learning that can be carried forward throughout one’s life. Catholic Charities and the Diocese both look forward to working with these partners in the future to help promote literacy which is so important in the life of all students.”