By Kaylyn Christopher
Times West Virginian
Lee Anne Burton, a second-grade teacher at Monongah Elementary School, has had a passion for books all her life.
“I just love reading, period,” Burton said.
As both a parent and an educator, Burton has made it her personal mission to spread her passion to others.
“When my daughters were small, I would always bring them to the library for weekly reading,” Burton said. “They loved it then and they still love it.”
And while her students have recently said goodbye to homework and tests and hello to swimming and sunshine, they are now adding a new item to their summer activity list — reading.
Burton was recently recognized by the Scholastic Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team for leading an effort to encourage summer reading among her students.
“Lee Anne is a great example of an educator who is helping children continue learning during the summer and helping stop the summer slide for her students,” Dominique Young, senior director of Marketing & Business Development for Scholastic FACE, said.
For the past 12 years, Burton has tried to facilitate summer reading by purchasing books at yard sales and sending them home with students with the suggestion of reading for 20 minutes at a time, five days a week.
Burton said she tried to find books with colorful pictures and clever titles that would appeal to students and match them up with their individual interests. Burton said she also passes out stuffed animal “reading buddies” for students to take home that serve as reminders to make time for reading.
“Anytime you can make learning fun, they look forward to it,” Burton said.
Burton also offers incentives for students who complete their summer reading. On the first day of school following the summer months, students can return “fun sheets” and reading journals to Burton for a chance to win more books and prizes.
“If you give them something fun to do with a book, like making puppets or dressing like your favorite character, it makes it more fun than just having to read the book and take a test on it,” Burton said.
Burton said engaging students in reading can enhance further development.
“It’s important to get them interested in books while they’re young,” she said.
Burton’s dedication and commitment to reading enabled her to be one of three winners from across the country of Scholastic’s “Project Summer” contest, which focuses on building early literacy, strengthening family involvement, increasing access to books, facilitating mentoring partnerships and providing expanding learning opportunities.
“Our Project Summer contest was a way for us to showcase some of the people within communities who share that same mission,” Young said. “We chose the winners based on academic alignment, community connectivity, student engagement and innovation. We received many strong entries, but we were really struck by Lee Anne’s passion for helping her students read during the summer.”
For her work, Burton was awarded 75 MyBooks summer book packs that contain five books each. Burton said the books were split up between three second-grade classrooms at Monongah.
“You would have thought the students were given candy,” Burton said. “They didn’t even want to wait to take them home and read them. They kept asking, ‘Can we open them now?’”
Burton said the students who received the books, many of whom may not have had access to reading material otherwise, will reap benefits from the opportunity.
“They’re expanding their vocabulary and global knowledge through reading,” she said.
Burton’s recognitions don’t stop there, though, as she was recently named Marion County’s Patti R. Pollack Reading Teacher of the Year by the Marion County Reading Council. The award is presented to an outstanding teacher who develops and implements programs, keeps current in research and practice, assumes leadership and serves as a role model for colleagues.
Burton, along with other county winners, will now be in the running for the West Virginia Reading Teacher of the Year Award.
“I’m very excited because it validates the importance of reading that I place in my classroom,” Burton said of the award. “A supportive, loving environment where literacy behaviors are modeled with great compassion assures that students will blossom into fluent readers. Every child in my classroom shines as their strengths in reading are applauded and strategies are taught to overcome weaknesses.”
Email Kaylyn Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.