By 509J Communications

Jefferson County School District 509J celebrated our 11th annual Gift of Literacy event. More than 230 first-grade students from across the district descended on the Performing Arts Center for a day to celebrate reading.

To welcome the students, staff and middle school leadership students formed a tunnel and cheered on the first graders as they arrived at the PAC.

After getting nestled into their seats in the auditorium, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Melinda Boyle, kicked off the event with District Librarian, Ryan Dempsey.

“This is my favorite day of the year, and I am so happy we were able to return to in-person,” Boyle said. “In 2020, we had to cancel the event due to the pandemic. In 2021, we were able to bring the event back but it was virtual and each student stayed in their classroom.”

Boyle and Dempsey then introduced children’s author Eric Kimmel. He has published more than fifty titles, many of which have won numerous state awards, appeared on school and library recommended lists, and won prestigious awards such as the Caldecott Honor Medal and the Sydney Taylor Picture Book Award. He read aloud his book, “The Three Cabritos” to the children. Once he was finished, the students got a chance to open up the book bags they received earlier. They all got a few minutes to read the book they received highlighted in this year’s program. There were six options.

“I love watching the children open their books and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they start reading,” Boyle said.

Following that, the students were split into three different groups and went through a rotation. One group got to stay in the auditorium and work with Kimmel on writing their very own children’s book. He took them through the story development process and helped prompt the kids to write their own book all on their own.

Another group got to go out into the lobby and listen to adults and JCMS students read aloud to smaller groups. There were volunteers from JCSD 509J, Jefferson County Library District, Jefferson County, and retired educators all reading different books to the children.

The final group got to go to another room and listened to Bridges Assistant Principal, Katie Boyle, read aloud to them. After she finished, the students all got a chance to make their very own pennant. The assignment was to write their name, what college they would like to attend, and what they want to be when they grow up.

The students rotated through these three sessions until it was time for lunch!

This event is designed to promote the love of reading at an early age and inspire long-term success in school and in life.

Thank you to everyone that had a part in making this a successful day. That includes, all of our wonderful 509J faculty and staff who played a part in the event, JCLD and Jefferson County staff for taking the time to read to our students. Thank you to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Madras Police, and Warm Springs Police for showing off their cars to the kids at lunchtime. Special thanks to Jefferson County Fire District for bringing the fire truck over and letting kids explore it. Thank you to the 509J transportation team who helped bus the kids over from WSK8, Metolius, Big Muddy, and 509J Online. Also, a big thank you to Dr. Steve Nitschelm for spending the day with the students and bringing along two therapy dogs!

Thank you to all of our sponsors, including, the Jefferson County Rotary Club, Madras, Bright Wood Quality Millwork, Madras Education Association, Mid Oregon Credit Union, PayneWest Insurance, Pratum Co-op, Rotary International, St. Charles Health Systems, Warm Springs Power and Water. We would also like to take the time to honor Dr. Doug Lieuallen. He and his wife, Patty, have been longtime supporters of the Gift of Literacy.


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