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Grown-ups help hungry minds read

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‘Power Lunch’ program in at Hudson school fosters love of reading

HUDSON–”These kids are just as excited as we are,” said Jennifer Merwin-Domkoski, a teacher, as she stood in the M.C. Smith Intermediate School library. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays third graders and their reading mentors meet for lunch and reading. They chat to catch up on news while the children eat, and then they read a book.

“It’s fun to get to know him,” Jaelen McMillon said of his mentor, district Superintendent Jack Howe, who had gone off to select a book for that Tuesday.

“How about “Dinosaurs before Dark?” asked Mr. Howe. “He’s read quite a few books. He’s quite a reader,” he said of Jaelen.

“Did you think there would be school today?” he asked, referring to a brief, early morning snowstorm. “Are you glad to be here today?”

“Yes,” said Jaelen to both questions.

“Me too,” said the superintendent.

“This is one of the nicest hours of the week,” said Hudson City Treasurer Eileen Halloran as she waited for her two students to arrive. “This is a great program. I’m pleased to be part of it.” She had a copy of “Tar Beach,” a story set on a rooftop in New York City written and illustrated by the African American artist and author Faith Rhinggold.

Power Lunch, a cross-generational reading program, started last fall and has grown since then from 40 mentors to 70. The program is modeled on programs that have formed in other cities to help even the playing field for children who don’t get to do a lot of reading at home with their parents. Mentors serve as reading role models for children and get to share their enthusiasm for reading with their students.

Research has found that typical middle class children have already spent 1,000 to 1,700 hours reading their parents before they begin school, while poor kids may only spend a total of 25 hours reading with their parents. In addition to reading, the program also engenders a friendship with an adult in the community.

Two school board members, board President Emil Meister and Peter Meyer, were at the Library on Tuesday reading with students. Ginsberg’s Foods sends five mentors to the program and contributes food for special parties.

The Hudson Business Coalition just helped recruit six new mentors, said Elizabeth Dolan, the school district’s literacy coach who started the program.

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