Patton College

Chris Kennedy, associate lecturer, and EDTE teacher candidates demonstrate literacy game

Photo courtesy of: The Patton College of Education

Patton College teacher candidates

Teacher candidate administering literacy assessment

Photo courtesy of: The Patton College of Education

Patton College Shelter House

Teacher candidates working with children in Evergreen Estates outdoor pavilion

Photo courtesy of: The Patton College of Education

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Nourishing the mind and the body with the 'Breakfast with Books' program

For many students, summer is a time to kick back, relax, and unwind. For 17 teacher candidates in Chris Kennedy’s Reading Instruction Diagnosis and Remediation course, however, it was a time to hit the books – in more ways that one.

The teacher candidates – mostly middle childhood and special education majors – participated in “Breakfast with Books” every Tuesday and Thursday morning at Evergreen Estates, a low-income housing complex in The Plains, Ohio.

They worked with children ages 3-13 to improve literacy and language skills, designing and playing games that covered the five elements of reading: phonics, phonemic awareness, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary.

“The idea of ‘Breakfast with Books’ seemed a natural opportunity for teacher candidates to work with kids that were gathered in a central location over summer vacation,” said Kennedy, associate lecturer in Teacher Education. “The college class was scheduled during morning hours, which is the same time that kids from the area had breakfast in the community room of Evergreen Estates.”

Evergreen Estates works with Hocking Athens Perry Community Action Program (HAPCAP) Foodbank and Kitchen, which provides free breakfast and lunch to children under 18 during summer months. The Stevens Literacy Center, which promotes literacy through community outreach, connected The Patton College with HAPCAP and Evergreen Estates, pitching the idea of teacher candidates working with students during a meal.

“It seemed like a win-win for all,” said Dr. Julie Francis, director of the Stevens Literacy Center. “Kids would get a summer of healthy meals right along with healthy literacy interaction, while teacher candidates would get opportunities to sit side-by-side with kids during the summer to learn how to administer reading assessments, read aloud to kids, talk with parents, and engage children in authentic conversations during mealtime, game time, and reading and writing time.”

Teacher candidates created reading games – many of which involved movement to gain and maintain student interest – that accounted for age, reading level, and learning style. Teacher candidates worked one-on-one with students, which gave them a chance to administer and analyze reading assessments more closely and more accurately.

Both groups benefitted greatly. Students not only received enrichment to reduce “summer slide,” but also worked with an adult role model invested in their literacy growth. Teacher candidates, meanwhile, had a rare opportunity to work with students in their home environment, thus giving them more insight into students’ personal lives and family dynamics.

“This is such an important part of being an effective teacher,” said Kennedy. “Recognizing and valuing where the child comes from and knowing how to support children if and when they need it is vital.” 

Teacher candidates met and spoke with students’ parents, some of whom joined their children during the “Breakfast with Books” hour and read to them. All families received free books from the Molina Health Foundation at the end of the program.

“We were pleased to have interest from The Patton College and the Stevens Literacy Center to bridge the gap over the summer – not only for food, but for education,” said Sam Gress, HAPCAP food services coordinator. “We know that children not only face more hunger in the summer due to missing out on free and reduced lunches, but they also struggle during the summer to keep up with where they left off at the end of the school year with reading. We hope to see this partnership continue.”

For many teacher candidates, the experience was eye-opening.

“One child told me that when she stays (with her mom in the housing complex), she has no books,” said one of the teacher candidates. “Hopefully this program was able to help her expand on her reading when she usually was not able to have access to books.”

While this was Kennedy’s first time working with Evergreen Estates, it likely won’t be his last. Teacher candidates and students enjoyed the one-on-one interaction, and working in a community, not a classroom, was fun for everyone.

“For me, having a field experience like this allows students to make value connections between what we do in class and what teachers do on a daily basis,” said Kennedy. “We get a lot of classroom experience through the year-long college emphasis on partnership experiences, but this particular program allowed candidates to experience more of the connection of the community in which the children live and see differences in culture and socio-economic status. They were able to get to know the students better, plan instruction, and meet the needs of each individual learner.”