2016-02-12 / Schools

Kiwanis builds reading oasis at Berylwood

Reading room open to families after school
By Hector Gonzalez


ALMOST READY—Howard Everakes and Don Erickson, members of the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley, assemble a bookshelf Tuesday inside a classroom at Berylwood Elementary School that will soon become the city’sfirst Oasis Reading Room. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers ALMOST READY—Howard Everakes and Don Erickson, members of the Kiwanis Club of Simi Valley, assemble a bookshelf Tuesday inside a classroom at Berylwood Elementary School that will soon become the city’sfirst Oasis Reading Room. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Mirroring the school motto at Berylwood Elementary, local Kiwanis Club members are literally “Building a Better Education” at the 500-student campus.

About a dozen volunteers from the Simi Valley branch of the national service organization this month are finishing work on the Oasis Reading Room, a new literacy resource area being built inside a converted classroom at the K-6 campus on Heywood Street.

The volunteers hope to have the $10,000 project completed in time for a scheduled ribboncutting Feb. 29.

“My original goal was to put it together later on this spring, but the school wanted to have it opened to tie in with ‘Read Across America,’ which is March 2,” Kiwanis volunteer and project coordinator Lorraine Erickson said last week. Read Across America is a nationwide literacy campaign spearheaded by the National Education Association.


GOOD READS—A Kiwanis Club volunteer on Tuesday places a sticker inside a donated book that will be part of Berylwood Elementary’s new Oasis Reading Room. The literacy resource room opens Feb. 29. 
RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers GOOD READS—A Kiwanis Club volunteer on Tuesday places a sticker inside a donated book that will be part of Berylwood Elementary’s new Oasis Reading Room. The literacy resource room opens Feb. 29. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers Work on the reading room is moving along on schedule, Erickson said.

“(Berylwood) was chosen (to receive the new room) because it historically has had low reading scores,” she said. “But in the last few years, they’ve really focused on literacy and reading. The principal (Robin Hunter) is 100 percent behind the effort, and they have a great literacy coach here now.”

Teachers and administrators at the school want to maintain the recent progress students have made in reading, which is where the new Oasis Reading Room comes in, Erickson said. Once the project is completed, it will serve as an addition to Berylwood’s regular library by opening afternoons and evenings, she said.

“Actually, we’ve got as many sources of books as you can name on this campus,” Hunter said.

Along with the regular library, which every student visits at least once a week, the school has Tuesday Morning Lending Library, a before-school event where parents can check out up to 10 books for their children, he said.

“The Oasis Reading Room will be a place where kids can go and read with their families or just hang out and read a good book,” Hunter said.

Members of the Kiwanis Club will staff the room when school is closed.

“The idea is that when school is not in session, we’ll be open a couple of afternoons or evenings a week, so families will have a place to come and read with their kids,” Erickson said.

“During the summer, although we have to work out the schedule still, we’ll be open so families can have a place to go, so kids won’t lose those reading skills over the summer break.”

Members of local Key Clubs, which are high-school chapters of Kiwanis, will have the opportunity to volunteer in the new reading room, tutoring and mentoring younger students, Erickson said.

Launched a few years ago, the Kiwanis Reading Oasis program is a national effort conducted in partnership with Scholastic Book Fairs, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, which helps finance the projects at school sites around the country, said Stephanie Davern, head of foundational and corporate partnerships for Scholastic.

About 100 Oasis Reading Rooms have been completed through the partnership so far, with another 30 expected to be completed this year, she said.

Berylwood’s project is the first Oasis Room in Ventura County created through the program, Davern said.

In return for helping pay for the reading rooms, Scholastic Book Fairs is allowed to hold at least one book fair inside the new rooms, Erickson said.

In Simi Valley, Scholastic Book Fairs picked up half the costs of the $10,000 Oasis room project at Berylwood, providing $5,000 in books and materials.

Local Kiwanis began fundraising in January to collect the other $5,000 for the project, she said.

When it’s done, the room will have bookshelves and bookcases loaded with 100 picture books and about 1,000 other books for students in grades one through six.

Books on CD also will be available. The room will have modular reading center, five beanbag chairs and a bank of four computers, Erickson said.

“The school uses Accelerated Reader, which is a nationwide computerized reading program. So we’ll have computers in here so kids can continue on with their reading program when school is not in session,” she said.

The national Kiwanis

Reading Oasis program aims to increase reading and literacy for children in low-income, or Title 1, schools.

Nearly 70 percent of Berylwood’s students qualify for free and reduced lunch under the National School Lunch Program, which makes the campus eligible for grant funding under the federal Title 1 program.

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