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Let's feed, and read to, our children

Local teacher encourages students to keep learning over summer

ROCK FALLS —Jan Whitlock has created her very own outdoor classroom.

Every Wednesday for the past month, Whitlock has been reading books to elementary school students outside the Coloma Homes meeting room, at 401 W. 18th St., during a session of the "Let's Feed Our Children" free summer lunch program.

Although area students have been spending the summer months away from the classroom, Whitlock said she wants them to keep their minds active over the long break.

"I just have a drive and interest in doing a program for the kids," said Whitlock, a special education teacher at Merrill School. "I want the students to continue to read in the summertime."

Wednesday, a small group of students surrounded Whitlock as she read different books to them. They also spent time painting pictures.

"So many times, there is not enough time in the classroom for instruction and activity," Whitlock said. "I'm trying to get the students to where they read a book and it has meaning. I hope this can grow over time."

Whitlock has been a teacher for 16 years, the last 11 at Merrill. She has taught in Sterling and Dixon.

After she read to the students, she gave them a book to take home.

"A lot of the books were my own children's books, and a lot of them I have bought over the years and I kept in my classroom," Whitlock said. "I want the students to have reading material throughout the summer. A lot of times, students don't have access to a library over the summer."

Students and parents say they appreciate the effort Whitlock has put forth.

"I think this is awesome and great," said Amy Scott of Rock Falls. "It's a learning experience for the students. I think this is really cool."

Scott's daughter, 6-year-old Katalina, who will be a first-grader at Dillon Elementary School in Rock Falls, said she enjoyed having Whitlock read to her.

"It's great," Katalina said. "We get to take the books home. I really enjoy reading."

Whitlock reads outside the Coloma Homes meeting room from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. each Wednesday.

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