Gatewood Book Buddies program fosters love of reading at any age

The start of the 2017-18 school year signaled the end of the Book Buddies summer reading program, but the fun of reading for Gatewood students is just beginning.
October 05, 2017

Summer for members of the Gatewood Elementary Book Buddies program was spent chasing far-off adventures, saving planets, and finding the true meaning of courage inside the pages of some of their favorite books. But as the beginning of the school year takes shape, the summer program wraps up.

The summer reading program has been a staple offering at Gatewood for years. When Gifted & Talented educator Sarah Ham retired in 2011, Gator mom Katy Tessman couldn’t let the program discontinue. She has been spearheading the summer program ever since.

“Reading has always been a priority in our household,” she said. “Everyone has a book that they are reading. And most nights I read aloud to the boys, Louis and Maxwell, so the three of us have a book we’re reading together.” 

During a celebration on Friday, Sept. 9, Book Buddies participants got together to make bookmarks, create stories of their own, and re-read pages of their summer favorites. Tessman said reading during the summer is just as crucial as reading during the school year, if not more.

“Many children, especially struggling readers, forget some of what they've learned or slip out of practice during the summer months,” she said. “It is important children continue reading over the summer.”

Each summer the Book Buddies have their choice of 30 books, all of which are grouped into five categories. Students select one book from each category and read a total of five books over the summer. Each category has about two to three books to choose from. This empowers students to choose books that they will want to read, Tessman said, and become lifelong readers.

"As my sons have gotten older," Tessman says, "books have changed from picture books to chapter books to young adult novels. But one thing has stayed the same; we read every night."

Tips for Encouraging Young Readers:

  • Empower your child to choose the books they want to read
  • Set aside time for reading
  • Have a special cozy reading nook, perhaps a hammock outdoors
  • Start a book group with friends and meet at the beach or playground to discuss the books
  • Read aloud to your child, or read to each other, this is a great thing to do during a long car trip
  • Discuss the books with family at meal times
  • Do an activity and/or eat a snack just like the characters in the books
  • Write book reviews or recommendations to friends
  • Always have books with you


This summer was Tessman’s last year running the Book Buddies program, as her youngest son will be attending junior high next year. Gatewood Elementary has an opening for a parent to take on the program. If you have a love of children and young adult books, this could be the perfect opportunity to contribute at your child’s school.

Gatewood Book Buddies

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