On a summer day, they could be zipping down a slide, climbing a playground ladder, or walking the circle of a labyrinth. Instead, kids at Everett’s Wiggums Hollow Park decide to hang out with their school librarian — and the assistant principal.
If that’s not baffling enough, get this: They’re reading books.
Samantha Garner, the mother of two Hawthorne Elementary School students, said her son and daughter have been so excited about this summer’s weekly gatherings at Wiggums Hollow that they get up asking, “Is it Thursday, is it Thursday?”
“And they’re reading a lot more,” said Garner, a frequent volunteer in the Everett school’s library.
For a couple of hours every Thursday, Valerie Yob, Hawthorne’s assistant principal, and teacher-librarian Liz Trujillo set up shop in the shade of a tree near the Wiggums Hollow playground. Along with crates of children’s books, they bring a speaker that blasts Taylor Swift and other hit music, and a cooler filled with Otter Pops.
They plan to be there, 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays, through Aug. 10.
“We really need our kids to read,” Yob said. She noted that with many English language learners at Hawthorne, it’s especially important to counter what educators know as the “summer slide.”
“When school starts, it takes a teacher a good month to get them close to where they were in June,” Yob said.
According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 87.5 percent of Hawthorne’s students qualified for free or reduced-price lunch in 2016, and 49.7 percent of the school’s 479 children were counted as “transitional bilingual.”
It was Trujillo’s idea to try bringing a library of sorts outside this summer. Yob said the Hawthorne librarian knew about a bookmobile program that has grown in the Snohomish district, and pushed for something similar near the north Everett school.
This is the season to do it. Hawthorne’s interiors are being painted and the school is getting new floors, so summer library hours are iffy. Donated books for the Wiggums gatherings, more than 3,000 of them, came largely from other schools in the Everett district, Yob said.
Kids are invited to take a book or two, and may keep them or bring them back. The gatherings are aimed at Hawthorne students, but no children are turned away.
Along with crates of books, sorted by subjects, Yob and Trujillo bring a laptop computer for kids to test reading comprehension. Once a child reads a book, he or she may take a multiple choice quiz using an Accelerated Reader (AR) program.
Aaden Garner, a 7-year-old soon to start second grade at Hawthorne, was at Wiggums with his mom and 8-year-old sister, Kortana. He had just finished a science book, “Fossils Tell of Long Ago,” and was intent on answering AR test questions.
Looking up from the computer, Aaden said he misses school during the summer, and mostly “seeing my friends.”
Samantha Garner said the “My Weird School” and “My Weirder School” series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Goosebumps” books, and Raina Telgemeier’s “Smile,” “Drama” and “Sisters” titles are among her kids’ favorites.
“Kids like edgier books,” said Trujillo, listing science fiction and fantasy books as popular choices in the school library.
Thursday’s gathering grew bigger when Everett’s Stephanie Thibault pulled up in her van and unloaded nine kids, all her grandchildren or their cousins, ages 1 to 10. One of them, 5-year-old Isaiah Burkett, quickly picked out three books, each one about cats.
It wasn’t long before six children, a few of them sticky from Otter Pops, were sitting on the ground, happily engaged in the unlikeliest summertime fun — listening to an assistant principal read.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein @heraldnet.com.
Children are invited to Wiggums Hollow Park 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 10 to choose a free book, join in reading fun and enjoy an Otter Pop. An assistant principal and a teacher-librarian from nearby Hawthorne Elementary School will be near the park’s playground. Wiggums Hollow is at 2808 10th St., Everett.
The Everett School District encourages all students to join in its Summer Reading Challenge. Find information, grade-level brochures for listing books, and online Accelerated Reader tests at www.everettsd.org/Page/19067.