Summer Reading Program Combines Fun with Education

Instructor Jen Micari leads a reading session. thumbnail188221
Instructor Jen Micari leads a book discussion about a girl playing football on Tuesday.

Inside a classroom at Smithtown Elementary School on Tuesday morning, the Batman tune played from a speaker as Sueanne O’Hara led kindergarteners in a “Vowel Bat” lesson that aimed to teach the young students how to pronounce vowels.

In all, 130 students from kindergarten through eighth grade are taking advantage of the Smithtown Central School District’s summer reading program.

The voluntary program, which has been held by the district for roughly two decades, began July 12 and runs through this Thursday. There are a pair of 90-minute sessions each morning, four days a week, which are taught by a dozen instructors.

“They work on comprehension, decoding skills and any other age-appropriate reading strategies,” said Debbie Kinahan-Turza, who has served as the program’s lead teacher for the past nine years.

Typically, an instructor has no more than eight students in a group, optimizing the learning environment. A portion of the instructors do the lessons virtually, with students connecting from home.

Invitations for the elective program typically are extended in April based on recommendations from district personnel.

Writing proficiency also is taught.

Kinahan-Turza, who serves as a special education teacher at Nesaquake Middle School during the academic year, noted that the program has been fun for the children in addition to being educational. Earlier this week, in fact, one mother relayed to Kinahan-Turza while dropping off a child how eager the student is to come to the program each morning.

Instructors select reading material — fiction and nonfiction — in part based on the interests of the students attending. So on Tuesday, for example, older students read and discussed the story of a girl playing on a male-dominated football team. A previous book topic suggested by a student involved sharks.

For more information on the summer reading program, contact lead teacher Debbie Kinahan-Turza at