Temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit couldn't keep devoted readers away from Cimarron Elementary School on June 27.
On a sweltering summer day, dozens of students, parents and community members gathered on the Cimarron lawn to pick up some new books and read in the shade. Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegfried also stopped by to mingle with the Cimarron community and read to the crowd. It was all part of "Books on Blankets," the school's summer series dedicated to encouraging literacy, building community and keeping kids reading during their summer vacation. The weekly series runs every week until the end of July.
"We started this program two years ago to really enhance the idea that reading is fun, that it can be joyful," said MaryAnna Fox, a reading specialist and third-grade teacher at Cimarron. "We want to show kids that reading doesn't just have to be a school task – it can be part of everyday life. We wanted to encourage families to come and read with their kids and create a community here at the school."
The event has grown in scope and popularity since it debuted, Fox noted. Word spread quickly about the event, and so far, the 2018 meetings have consistently drawn dozens of attendees. Fox and the rest of the Cimarron staff were on hand to welcome the crowd, offering new books, reading recommendations and even popsicles to help combat the heat.
Siegfried was one of the attendees to receive a new book, which he proudly read to the gathered crowd. He read through the entirety of "Even Superheroes Have Bad Days" by Shelly Becker before sitting down in the grass and chatting with students, parents and other attendees.
For Siegfried, the event was an opportunity to build community connections as the new CCSD superintendent, even as it was a chance to support one of the core missions of the district.
"Literacy is the basis of everything that we do, and it's critical that kids don't stop reading over the summer," Siegfried said. "What's really neat about this is that it's a community situation. Kids are coming with their parents and with their friends; they're meeting at school to enjoy reading with each other and being off of the couch and away from the TV."
Siegfried isn't the only guest reader who's taken part in the event. Last week, Aurora Police Officer and Cimarron SRO Erik Van Cleave read a book to the crowd. Siegfried pointed to the importance of authority figures setting a good example for students.
"I think it's really important that kids have role models," Siegfried said. "There are a lot of great role models from across our community, and it's important that our kids see all of them engaging with important aspects of education such as literacy, reading during the summer and just having fun.
"There's almost a peer feeling of 'Everyone else is doing it, I want to do it to," Siegfried added.