By TJ Davis
Educators at Cool Spring Elementary School brought a summer reading program to their students’ neighborhood instead of busing them to class.
For the second consecutive summer, Cool Spring teachers and volunteers set up shop in the Homewood Suites by Hilton on Fort Evans Road in Leesburg every Tuesday for five weeks to deliver reading support for 20 students.
The hotel has offered its Liberty Room for the program for one hour per week free of charge. The program was created last year to give students—especially those still learning English—access to books and extra support ahead of the school year. Many of Cool Spring’s students from low-income households live in apartments and townhomes along Fort Evans Road and Plaza Street, a 10-minute bus ride to the school.
“We want to get reading out in the communities, especially for our kids that may not have access to books,” Cool Spring Principal Chris Cadwell said. “It’s important for them to continue reading regularly over the summer and practice their reading strategies. It helps them to maintain the things they learned over the school year and get ready for the next year.”
He said partnering with Homewood Suites has been idea. “The students can literally walk right over and have access to teachers and books.”
Cool Spring teachers volunteer to help with the camp, working with the students one-on-one to help them with their reading strategies. Three high school students are also volunteering to tutor the students.
“The younger students really like working with the older students,” reading specialist Carolee Botts said, noting that the relaxed atmosphere helps bring the students back each week.
Cadwell has seen that students who took part in the program last summer returned to the classroom in the fall more prepared and excited about reading. “They have maintained momentum in their reading and it helps with their overall progress—they become more confident readers,” he said.
Most of the young readers are familiar with the camp’s host, Homewood Suites. Once a year, a hotel employee—dressed as Lewis the Duck—delivers books and story times to local schools. “Then we give every student who’s there a free book,” said Laura George, the hotel’s director of revenue management and sales.
After the final session of the reading program this week, the students will be invited to take as many books home as they’d like, with more than 100 to choose from. And the collection features some favorites, including Dr. Seuss, The Magic School Bus saga, and the Black Lagoon series.
TJ Davis is a summer intern at Loudoun Now, studying journalism at Liberty University.