Holy Spirit School opens the beach for summer reading

OVERLAND PARK — One day, a fourth-grade girl asked her teacher, “Mrs. Bustillo, is the library going to stay open for the rest of the summer?”

And it was at that moment that Cayleigh Bustillo knew that all the planning and hard work had been well worth the effort. The new summer library program had made a difference — at least to one student.

With a smile on her face, Bustillo she replied, “No, I’m sorry, sweetie, but we’ve got to close it down to get it ready before school starts.”

It’s not often that you find kids wanting to go to the school library during the summer. But at Holy Spirit School in Overland Park, it was a different story.

Bustillo, the school’s reading and research skills teacher, third-grade teacher Peg Jaworski, and fourth-grade teacher Jane Sullivan spent months dreaming up ways to attract students to the school’s library for the summer. The end result was to be a place where children and their parents would be able to come and enjoy silent reading with others from the school community.

While there, students would also be able to borrow books, receive reading help from teacher volunteers, and take Accelerated Reader tests — “AR’s,” as the kids liked to call them — which earned them points toward an ice cream party.

The incentive did not stop there, though.

After receiving the enthusiastic approval of school principal Michele Watson, it was decided that the library itself would take on a new shape. From June 24 through July 29, the library was transformed into a beach scene, where students were able to dive into terrific books while relaxing under tiki huts.

The children of Holy Spirit were overjoyed when they entered the library this summer to find tables converted to huts, carpets covered in beach towels and circle time transformed into a wading pool.

One high school sibling even remarked, “It’s always better to read under a table than at home.”

The teachers couldn’t have been happier when they saw family after family pouring into the library every Wednesday to attend the reading party. On more than one occasion, their efforts were commended by school parents who made comments like: “Thank you so much. This is such a treat,” and “I have never seen him so excited to read. I bet he read five books today just to make sure that he had enough points for that ice cream party.”

Each Wednesday, in fact, the library staff saw more than 40 youngsters flock to the beach. When asked for her thoughts on the new summer fun, fifth-grader Liz Wenkel responded simply: “It’s awesome!”

With endorsements like that and participation exceeding expectations, you can be sure to find a beach where the library once was for many summers to come.

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