A group of teachers at Mayflower Elementary School have come up with a way to keep books in the hands of their students, even during the summer months.

In 2017, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Department of Education launched the RISE (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) initiative, which focuses on three goals:

1.) Strengthening reading instruction.

2.) Creating community collaboration.

3.) Building a culture of reading.

Since its establishment, educators throughout the state have been participating in trainings to be able to implement the new program in their schools.

Karen Wilson, a second-grade teacher at Mayflower Elementary, said her school went through the courses last summer and fully implemented the on-going reading instruction in the building, already seeing lasting changes and “unimaginable” growth in their students.

She said now they’re focusing on that second goal.

“Students and families of the Mayflower community are very important to me,” Wilson said. “I really have a desire to see those students be successful.”

The second-grade teacher began to think toward the future, processing ways they could “fulfill RISE” in the community and get them more involved.

Wilson said she looked at area schools to see what they were doing and discovered several doing various academic summer programs but, the unique part of each was not how, but where.

She said they were going out into the communities, into the neighborhoods to meet face-to-face with their school stakeholders.

“I thought, ‘this is how you do it, that is how we get to people,’” Wilson said. “You go out where they are.”

She then met with other Mayflower Elementary teachers to see how they felt about community outreach.

“The teachers in that building are tremendous and they are very supportive,” Wilson said.

Through collaboration and team work, the group was able to establish the Summer Reading Splash Series, held for the first time at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Harp’s Food Store in Mayflower.

Those who attended received a drink and a snack, had the opportunity to work on a craft and then hear a story, “Fireflies,” by Julie Brinckloe, read by Lori Cole, a teacher at the elementary.

Mayflower teacher Kara Colvin was also present as were around six or seven students, interacting with each other and Cole as she read, asking them questions along the way.

“She gets very engaged,” Colvin said. “It’s not just reading it. It’s getting them to ask questions [and] answer questions.”

The Log Cabin Democrat witnessed each being hands-on with the story time, eager to be a part of the reading day.

Hearing that it went well excited Wilson. She said that’s exactly what she wanted.

“[Reading is] a gateway,” the teacher said. “It is a literally a skill that is useful in every aspect of life. When you can help a child be more successful as a reader, you know you helped them be more successful in life as a person.”

Wilson said she also hoped that those adults present got excited about reading too.

“It’s important to see adults around them enjoying reading, as well,” she said.

When they established the summer plans, Wilson said they developed there goals:

1.) To educate parents in the community on the “vital, important role” they play in encouraging and supporting their young readers.

2.) To prevent what teachers call, “the summer slide.”

“When kids come back to school, a lot of times, they’re not able to perform at the level that they left at,” Wilson said.

3.) Want to help develop that life-long joy for reading and get students excited for that.

For so many, reading is looked at as something you only do at school, she said, but Wilson hopes to change that.

“We want to show kids that reading is something to love throughout your life, so that it can enhance your life and make it better,” she said.

Wilson said past summer, the group wants to try and find a way to push that initiative into the school year, though, they’re not quite sure how to yet — they’re considering some type of incentive program.

“We have a lot of ideas,” she said.

Whatever they do, Wilson said, she’s just excited to see it develop.

While it may not look the same way as they go along, and things may change, she “absolutely” wants to continue.

“I’d really love for these community outreach programs to kind of bring school outside the building, education being a life-long sort of thing,” Wilson said. “The community of Mayflower is a great place to be to live, to learn and to grow. I want the best for the families there and I think this is one way to do it.”

The group is set to host the event the next two Tuesdays, unless met with unfortunate weather, which is what happened this week.

Watch the school’s Facebook page for upcoming locations and other details.