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Orca Readers makes learning to read fun for Eagleridge students

In an Eagleridge Elementary School classroom after the final bell had rung on a Monday afternoon, a group of three students were competing to see who could read the most words.

Kindergarten teacher Sam Wood was leading the students in a game where they grabbed a small toy apple out of a basket, each with a “power word” – commonly used words that students are learning to sight read – written on it. For each word the student correctly recognized and read aloud, they kept the apple. Whoever had the most apples at the end won.

One student, Alex, grabbed an apple and confidently read the word written on it: “for.” Mr. Wood asked a clarifying question to test his reading skills.

“Is it the number four, or ‘for’ like it’s ‘for’ someone?” Mr. Wood asked.

Alex said the latter – the correct answer – and he added the apple to his growing pile.

Alex is one of about 60 Eagleridge students in the school’s new Orca Readers program for students who are receiving additional reading support. The program not only makes learning to read fun, but it also provides them with more individualized support that they may not always receive in their classroom setting.

“Sometimes in classrooms, everybody’s at a different level, so some things they might be doing, they can’t do yet,” said Susan Lutton, a kindergarten teacher at Eagleridge who helped organize Orca Readers. “Here, teachers can say, ‘Okay, we know your level, and this is where we’re going to support you from.’”

Each student in Orca Readers comes once a week, either after or before school. Each session has about 10 students in it and multiple school staff, ensuring the kids can receive customized reading assistance.

“It absolutely gives a great opportunity for kids to get a more individualized education,” said Mr. Wood, who works with students after school in Orca Readers. “It lets us work with them one-on-one or small group basis to work with them on the skills they really need.”

A major emphasis of the program is keeping reading entertaining for the students. Kids learn to read through hands-on brain-exercise games, and they also get a snack beforehand. While the program is only a month old, Eagleridge teachers say it’s already getting students invested in reading.

“I have one student in Orca Readers who is very tentative about reading,” said Ms. Lutton. “It’s fun to see him so excited to come and work with his reading teacher.”