Little Bookworms: Developing Young Readers at Coman Hill

A walk through Coman Hill Elementary School finds students engaged in many types of books and texts throughout the day. 

“The heartbeat of Coman Hill is reading,” Principal Peggy McInerney said. “During these formative years, our children spend time learning how to read while using reading to learn. Our children are learning how to read at the same time they are developing comprehension skills to make sense of the world. Reading is used in every discipline and is a big part of every school day.”

The District’s youngest learners participate in many daily activities that instill a love of reading.

Teachers share stories through read-alouds, in which they read a book to their class and discuss the story and ask probing questions. “Every teacher engages children in read-alouds that allow our students to interact with a storybook as a classroom of learners,” Mrs. McInerney said. 

There are school-wide read-alouds throughout the year at the Coman Hill community meetings. The first meeting of the school year included Mrs. McInerney reading “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” a story about kindness.

Students enjoy choosing their own books for independent reading from the extensive classroom libraries. “This allows our students to explore areas of interest, passion or prior experiences that they connect with, which fosters a love of reading,” Mrs. McInerney said. 

Every class takes a weekly trip to the school library, where students can check out two books, a fiction and a nonfiction book. Students learn about the different genres in the library, which is filled with books including fairy tales, folktales, poetry, biographies, mystery books and informational and expository texts.

Another way that Coman Hill nurtures a love of reading is through Parents as Reading Partners, which was held during the first week of October in a precursor to the PTSA Book Fair. For PARP, as it’s called, parent volunteers visited the classrooms to read “The Resilient Sloth,” a story about mental toughness and overcoming obstacles, and led an activity.

“We love having our parents come in to read to the children,” Mrs. McInerney said. “It is a valuable experience for our children to see parents modeling reading, another example of how we want to foster a lifelong love of reading. This year’s book connected to traits from the Social-Emotional Learning Curriculum. Read-alouds serve different purposes depending on the focus of the learning objective.”

On the first day of PARP, Jen Clark read to her daughter’s kindergarten class, an experience she called fulfilling and special. “It’s great to see all the kids’ faces and how they respond and react to another parent,” she said after reading in Fran Poniatowski’s classroom. “It’s so much fun being here.”  

Allyson Cusumano also said it was special to read to her son’s second grade class. “Reading is such an important part of the day,” she said. “I loved coming in to read to all of the children and to listen to and help answer their questions.”

Sam Cusumano said his mom did a good job reading the book. Having her at school was “fun and I was happy.”

Sam’s teacher, Jennifer Rowell, says reading is integrated into all parts of the school day. Each morning, two of her students practice public speaking skills by reading the morning slides, which contain a daily schedule, calendar and other important information. Her students have studied the habits of strong readers, they learn decoding and comprehension skills during ELA, read to kindergarten buddies once a week, read directions and story problems during math and sometimes read from apps like PebbleGo and Epic. 

“That’s the beauty of Coman Hill,” she said. “Many different forms of reading are integrated throughout the curriculum and throughout their days. The students are reading all the time.”  

Another one of her students, Maeve Wolthuis, said she enjoys the reading opportunities she has every day. At school, she said, she is learning tricky words, which helps her with reading.

On reading, she said: “I love it. Reading helps me calm down and reading is one of my hobbies. I read every day.”

PARP at Coman Hill

Parp at Coman HillOne way Coman Hill instills a love of reading in students is through PARP, or Parents as Reading Partners. For PARP, parent volunteers visited classrooms in October and read “The Resilient Sloth” and led an engaging activity.