Several weeks ago I made like Oprah and set to work distributing the Summer Reading Kits that I had received at the beginning of the summer for Leapfrog's Ambassadors of Summer Reading program. Last weekend we went to the East Palo Alto Library (we donated one of the reading kits to them) and interviewed Darwin Eustaquio, Director of the library's Quest Learning Center. I was delighted to hear that they've been able to integrate the Leapfrog Tag into their program in just a couple of short weeks! Here's a snippet of our conversation:
The Pea did a pretty good job of being my cameraman, don't you agree? Unfortunately the audio was a wee bit low (we were in a library, after all, and we didn't exactly want to shout) so I've attempted to transcribe the key points on the video:
Bonggamom: What does the Quest Learning Center do?
Darwin: We are a free program with the East Palo Alto Library for kids in grades 3-5, from nearby Ravenswood School District. For the summer, to prepare for the upcoming schoolyear, we're working on decoding skills, sight word skills, and fluency skills, and we've been doing this through repeated reading. The Leapfrog Tag fits right in with the literacy program.
Bonggamom: How are the students enjoying the Tag? Do they like it?
Darwin: They definitely do! We have tutors on-site that can help kids with reading and practicing their fluency skills, but when they go home, oftentimes, especially with English Language Learners, they don't have someone at home who can help them with pronounciation.
Bonggamom: So they can check these books out?
Darwin: Yes, they can take these home*.
Bonggamom: So which books have been popular?
Darwin: Fancy Nancy and Dr. Seuss have been very popular. The other thing I love about these books is, since we are working on sight words, we actually went through and circled how many words in the books are sight words. For example, Miss Spider's Tea Party has 31% of actual sight words**, and some are even higher. The Little Engine that Could has 54% of the sight words included in it. We have volunteers actually go through the books and circle all the words that are sight words, and we're going to be putting a nice little card on the back so that when we have a student who has certain sight words that he still needs to memorize, we know what book to give him to take home.
* The Leapfrog Summer Reading kits came with carrying cases, so a child in the Quest program can easily check out a Tag and a couple of Tag books, pack them into the Tag carrycase and take it all home. Talk about nice and neat! Apparently the included headphones are also a nice touch; kids can listen to the books at home (or in the library) without disturbing anyone else.
** Darwin is referring to the percentage of words in Miss Spider's Tea Party that appear on Edward Dolch's list of 220 frequently-used words, commonly known as the Dolch Word List. Many of the words on the Dolch Word List cannot be "sounded out" using basic phonics skills and must be learned by sight, so mastering (or sight-reading) the words on the Dolch Word List is an important component of learning how to read.
It looks like the Quest Learning Center and the Leapfrog Kits are a perfect fit! Initially I was worried that the age range for the Tag (4 thru 8) didn't exactly match the age range for the Quest Learning Center (grades 3 thru 5). But Darwin told me that many of the kids in the program are still reading at the first grade level, and there are over 30 kids in the program, so I know those 5 Tag readers are being put to good use. In fact, I wish I could give them more. Now I know where our own Tags are going after 3Po and Jammy have outgrown them.
I can't even begin to describe the satisfaction I'm feeling about this experience, which is weird considering I didn't really do anything. I mean, Leapfrog did all the donating, and Darwin and his crew are the ones who'll be helping those kids. But being able to play matchmaker for these two organizations really makes me happy, knowing that I've helped in a small way. This is a great example of how bloggers and brands can work together in a positive way, and if there's any other company out there looking to involve bloggers in their community services efforts, you know where to find me. Gawd, I love this "job"!
I did not receive product samples or financial compensation for this post. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.