Summer reading programs hot topic in Tahoe |

Summer reading programs hot topic in Tahoe

Students from Sierra Village Apartments work in small reading groups.
Courtesy photo |

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — It’s a Wednesday morning in mid-July. Instead of being out on the playground or watching television, 27 youths ranging in age from 4 to 14 are packed into the computer room at the Sierra Village Apartments clubhouse.

They arrive every Wednesday and Thursday morning for five weeks to participate in the Tahoe Truckee Reads Summer Reading Program.

The morning starts with a coloring project, which tracks each student’s attendance in the program. The kids are then split into two groups: entering kinders/early grades and older elementary/middle school students. The kinders/early grades start working on word structure, identifying consonants and vowel sounds in different types of words.


The older group gets a quick lesson about how to read a book and figure out the main character, problem and solution of the story before being sent off in smaller groups to read. There are three girls in middle school who each take charge of one of the smaller reading groups. The girls are eager to help the other children in their groups with reading and comprehension. These older girls don’t seem to realize it, but they are learning valuable lessons about leadership in addition to honing their own reading and comprehension skills.


During the second half of the morning session the students are treated to a visit from “Tug,” a RUFF (Read Up For Fun) reading dog. RUFF is a program of the Tahoe Truckee Humane Society and is designed to build self-esteem in young readers. The dogs have an incredible impact on the kids in the group. The trained dogs are there to provide unconditional love and support to these young readers. Even the most timid reader can’t help but smile and giggle when the dogs are there to listen.

Watching over all the students and providing cheerful instruction and encouragement is Truckee Elementary School teacher Heidi Bushway Verkler. “This program really gives these kids somewhere to go during the summer. It’s a big group of kids and they all come every Wednesday and Thursday,” said Bushway Verkler. “It is so important and rewarding to work with the kids over the summer. They are learning and reading, but also having fun.”


This is the second year of the Summer Neighborhood Reading Program, and it is thriving thanks to local teachers and support from the Excellence in Education Foundation, Truckee Elementary and grants from the Cowell Foundation, Bessie Minor Swift Foundation and Target. The program is aimed to combat a phenomenon known as the “summer slide.” Research has shown that if children don’t read or participate in educational activities during the summer they can experience a profound learning loss. Particularly for low-income children, summer break without any reading can result in an average of two months of lost learning.

There are several neighborhood reading programs this summer throughout the Tahoe/Truckee community, with more than 100 students participating.

Teachers from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District are leading many of the programs along with community volunteers. Weekly programs are underway at the Donner Creek Mobile Home Park, Sierra Village Apartments, Henness Flats Apartments, Truckee Pines Apartments and the Assumption Church in Truckee and the Pocket Park in Tahoe Vista.

A four-week program, El Andar, is available at Truckee Elementary.

There are also summer reading programs available at the Tahoe City, Kings Beach and Truckee pubic libraries as well as Glenshire and Tahoe Lake Elementary libraries.

All of the programs are free and open to anyone who wants to participate. For more information visit

Shelly Purdy is an Excellence in Education board member.

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