When it’s Backpack Book Club time, participating second- and third-graders at Jefferson Elementary School in Manitowoc grab their blue backpacks and head for the gym.
There, Silver Lake College students await them for their weekly one-on-one reading sessions.
“The club gives them extra time to read with someone besides their classroom teacher or at home,” said Mary Domes, club adviser and wife of Silver Lake College President Dr. Chris Domes.
“The kids look forward to the students coming in to read with them,” said Barb Hooper, Jefferson principal. “The kids need that extra support, which has been wonderful. It’s another role model in their lives. It’s also a way for them to understand what college is all about.”
The Backpack Book Club is an offshoot of Silver Lake College's Look Ahead Lakers mentoring program. Silver Lake College students work with children on academic and social skills and encourage them to consider a higher education.
“The idea for the Backpack Book Club came about in fall, after we learned that there were a large number of students in the area who weren’t reading at grade level,” said Tara Wachowski, Silver Lake College’s School and Community Outreach Coordinator.
Silver Lake College student intern Courtney Carlson, an aspiring teacher, said the Backpack Book Club is beneficial for both students and mentors.
"For the mentors, being able to see the students grow as readers is extremely rewarding," Carlson said. "The students benefit by becoming stronger readers and gaining more confidence in themselves when reading aloud.”
Added Wachowski: “Most of the college students involved in the program want to work with youth in some way. It’s really allowing them to practice what they are learning in the classroom and developing the servant leadership skills that are important and necessary for them once they graduate.”
The club is a partnership with teachers at Jefferson, who provide the books. Club members hope to expand the club to other schools in next school year.
They also hope to someday have their own library of Fountas and Pinnell guided reading level books, used by the MPSD to improve literacy, Carlson said.