By Ali Abbonizio, AmeriCorps Member '17-'18, City Year Sacramento, Rosa Parks K-8

Reading is incredibly beneficial for our students because of the mental stimulation, stress reduction, and knowledge that they gain through reading. Every day my third grade students have the opportunity to silently read and are able to gain these skills. They pick where they want to sit around the room and can even sit in a giant beanbag chair. Reading is so important that there are nation-wide holidays and events centered around it, including National Reading Day and Dr. Seuss's birthday. City Year Sacramento supports reading and encourages students to find their passion in literacy, which is one of the most important tools we can provide for our students to become lifelong learners.

The City Year library here at Rosa Parks K-8 in Sacramento, California is one way we support literacy. Third grade student Theresa regularly finds me at recess eagerly awaiting a trip to the City Year library. She joyously asks everyday if she can go and find a book perfect for her. Many students like Theresa love coming to our library to pick out books at any time during the day. When other students see their peers going to the City Year library they always want to join too. This library was created last year by a corps member using books donated by the community. The corps member had a love for reading, and wanted students to have the opportunity to take out books at any time. This is a wonderful chance for students to take out books since our librarian is not on campus most days and the library is not always accessible to all students. These books are sorted by lexile score so students have access to reading material that is right for them at their current level. Having this library encourages students to read and even take a book home with them when they might not have the opportunity to do so through their own school library. This library truly encourages reading for students and increases their love for books.

Another way in which City Year supports literacy is through our writing challenge “It’s Writ.” This writing challenge promotes writing and creativity for our students. Through “It’s Writ,” students can write as many creative stories as they want in a month and for each story they write they receive a raffle ticket. It makes writing fun and students can do it on their own time and take the initiative to write. After stories are submitted to the “It’s Writ” committee, members read each story thoroughly in search of their favorite one. Stories that corps members felt were the best written, most creative, funniest, had amazing plot development, or included excellent imagery received individual prizes. Then, stories that received a raffle ticket were pulled at random and winners participated in a celebration held in the City Year room. “It’s Writ” is an amazing writing development challenge that aids students in their passion for writing and inspires literacy.

City Year also supports reading through our English Language Arts small group interventions. Through ELA small groups many corps members choose to focus on reading comprehension by reading books, articles or short stories. My ELA small group is currently reading “Judy Moody,” and each student takes a turn reading a paragraph, helping each other along the way with pronunciation. Corps members choose reading materials based on their students reading levels. During ELA small group interventions comprehension questions are asked to ensure that students fully understand what they are reading instead of just going through the motions. Reading comprehension is one of the most important skills to obtain as a lifelong learner and our ELA small groups help provide that.

National holidays centered around literacy encourage young readers to get excited about improving their English language skills. City Year promotes reading and literacy in so many ways but especially through our City Year library, “It’s Writ,” and corps member’s ELA small group interventions. Having a student excited and wanting to read is one of the most rewarding experiences through City Year, and being able to create an environment for lifelong learners is incredible!

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