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Reading Rocks summer program kicks off in Billings

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 14:48:47-04

BILLINGS – Reading Rocks is a summer program aimed at increasing literacy, especially in lower-income areas.

The program takes place at Billings schools and parks. It kicked off Monday at Orchard Elementary.

“Reading Rocks is important because, one It usually piggy-backs off the school’s free-lunch program, so we make sure that the kids have proper food and nutrition, and place to go that’s safe where they can play,”  author Rodney Gottula said. 

Guest story-tellers from around the region will visit, and read books aloud to the children.

Children can also read to, or have volunteers read with them.

“Get them outdoors in the fresh air and then reading at a young age so that they can hopefully find something that speaks to them,” Gottula said. 

Orchard students were lucky enough for their guest reader to be an actual author. Rod Gottula is the creator of a children’s book, “Double, Not Half, encouraging readers to take pride in exactly who they are.

“My wife is Japanese, both of my kids are what would normally be termed half, so they were bilingual and bicultural, so that’s what motivated me to write the book, for my kids,” Gottula said. 

“Being an educator here. I wanted to kind of include a Montana element to that and so the book features Billings on the back cover, and it kind of alludes to both the Crow and the Blackfeet, and the dual worlds that our native kids live in as well,” Gottula said. 

Gottulla’s wife, Rie was on hand, writing each students name in Japanese style script.

“Japanese style top to bottom on those bookmarks so they’ll have a little memory to go away with,” Gottula said. 

Each child also gets to choose their very own book to take home.

“Kids that have books in their lives, and even kids that have adult conversation in their lives, if you can talk to your kids, and speak to them like adults, expand their vocabulary, that makes kids a lot more school ready. And when they come to school ready to read, ready to learn, they’re ahead of the gap all the way through high school into college,” Gottula said.

Gently used or new books for the cause can be donated at the Lincoln Center.

Weekly Schedule for Reading Rocks (12:15 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.)

Mondays and Wednesdays in Castle Rock Park (West Wicks Lane)

Mondays at Orchard Elementary School (120 Jackson Street)

Tuesdays and Thursdays in Central Park (Central and 10th Street West)

Tuesdays and Thursdays in Pioneer Park (3rd Street West and Avenue D)

Wednesdays in Gorham Park (Houle Drive and Miles Avenue)