Plymouth Harbor first got involved with the Bay Haven School about nine years ago when residents Marian Kessler and BJ Peters volunteered to help start a food bank program for children below the poverty line, which grew into the Snack Pack Program. Plymouth Harbor residents have been large supporters of the program and school ever since.

Rockin’ Reader is a nation-wide kindergarten read-aloud program for volunteers. It was brought to Sarasota in 2004 by Longboat Key resident Ruthie Maass and is sponsored by the Junior League of Sarasota and Team Up. This program was designed to shrink the vocabulary gap among children by exposing them to high quality literature and rich language. Through this program, volunteers and participating school children meet one-on-one for 30 minutes once a week to read aloud and discuss the meanings of various books.

When the Sarasota County School Board chose Bay Haven to participate in this early reading initiative, Plymouth Harbor residents were quick to offer help. “The teaching staff at Bay Haven is special and always open to innovative ideas, so it was an ideal match for the program,” Marian Kessler said. Twelve residents committed and reading training specialists were sent here to prepare our residents for the program.

A child’s vocabulary upon entering kindergarten is a prime predictor of that child’s school success, but there is a large difference between those who come from higher versus lower socioeconomic levels – as great as 32 million words. According to the National Reading Panel, reading aloud to children is “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.” The Rockin’ Reader program aims to help close this vocabulary gap by providing children with more opportunities to hear and use new language, therefore expanding their vocabulary. Each 30-minute session is designed to give children an opportunity to talk about the meaning of the book, both before and after. Volunteers ask children comprehension questions and choose words from the story to go into further detail about. They discuss the meaning of the word and give children an opportunity to talk about what the story means to them.

Through this program, our residents are helping to instill the love of reading in our future leaders.