Reading partners celebrate students’ achievement at Stark

Lowell Ackiron stands with Stark first-graders Aaron, M.J., Max and James (left to right), after they were presented with certificates for their exceptional reading skills Monday.

I spent most of the school day at Stark today, shadowing the school’s literacy coach for an upcoming story about the changing face of professional development in the Stamford Public Schools. In between class visits, modeling lessons and running Professional Learning Community meetings, Literacy Coach Sarah Santasiero also officiated a quasi-graduation for a group of kindergartners and first-grade students who have spent the past school year working on their literacy skills with volunteers from the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien.

This is the 13th year volunteers from the UJF have come into Stark to spend a half an hour once a week reading with young students in an effort to boost their literacy skills. Today was the annual graduation, during which the volunteers had the opportunity to speak a little about the individual children and present them with a brand new book to read over the summer.

“I did it because I really have a sense of gratitude from my own school experience. My teachers were very instrumental in my success, and I wanted to pay that back,” said Lowell Ackiron, who is pictured above with the four fist-grade boys he read along with this year. Ackiron, who is a retired doctor, has been participating in the program for about four or five years, he said.

“One of the greatest joys I have is coming here on Tuesday mornings and having four boys jump up from their chairs and say, ‘I want to be first,'” he said during the ceremony, before presenting each boy with a copy of Henry & Mudge: The First Book, (which, by the way, was a total favorite of mine when I was a kid).

Former Greenwich Public Schools Superintendent Ernie Fleishman also said his experience with two kindergartners “makes Tuesdays a great day for me.”

Over the past several months, Fleishman said he’s seen a transformation in one of his reading partners, from a shy young boy to a voracious reader who will chat about Jeremy Lin and the New York Knicks at length.

“He has become a very good reader, and a very good talker about what he reads,” Fleishman said, before giving each of his reading partners a copy of Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.

The program recognized many readers in total, all of whom have improved their reading immensely in the past year due in large part to the reading partnership, according to Santasiero.

Maggie Gordon