Sunday, December 21, 2014

December - the busy month! Craft Fair, the Rotary visits Barrows, Festival of Trees, and more!

There were so many amazing things that happened here during the month of December at Barrows.  I don't always have the time to stop and share, so I figured I would take a moment to update you on all the great stuff going on between these four walls.

Thank you to the Barrows PTO for an awesome Craft Fair event this year.  I know I went home with a couple of chia pets, an Olaf made of rice, and a very happy 4 year old! What a fun community event for all!

The Reading Rotary Club visited Barrows to read stories to our Kindergarten and 1st grade classes.  They also gave every 1st and K student a book bag with books for them to take home to spread the love of ready and early literacy skills.  What a wonderful experience and generous donation - thank you Rotary!

The Reading Education Foundation Festival of Trees was a beautiful event.  Thank you to Jeanne Borawski for chairing the Barrows REF tree committee.  The beautiful Barrows tree was decorated in honor of the 50th anniversary (gold anniversary!)

Have a wonderful winter break!

Vocabulary Development is key!

How do you introduce your child to new words?  What do you do when you encounter an unknown word when reading together?  Consider the learning opportunities you're presented with when you stumble across an unknown word in print or in conversation - establishing that understanding will be a well of knowledge children will continue to draw upon!  Check out the article below.

Vocabulary Development As the Key to Closing the Achievement Gap

            “To grow up as the child of well-educated parents in an affluent American home is to hit the verbal lottery,” says Robert Pondiscio in this Education Gadfly article. “In sharp contrast, early disadvantages in language among low-income children – both the low volume of words they hear and the way in which they are employed – establish a verbal inertia that is immensely difficult to address or reverse… When it comes to vocabulary, size matters.” A robust vocabulary correlates strongly with school achievement, SAT scores, college attendance and graduation, and higher adult earnings even among those who don’t attend college.

            So how do less-fortunate students build vocabulary? Not through studying and memorizing decontextualized word lists, says Pondiscio, but through repeated exposure to unfamiliar words in context – especially Tier 2 words like verify, superior, and negligent. These middle-tier words “are essential to reading comprehension,” he says, “and undergird more subtle and precise use of language, both receptive (reading, hearing) and expressive (writing, speaking)… There is a language of upward mobility in America. It has an expansive and nuanced vocabulary that it employs to nimbly navigate the world of organizations, institutions, and opportunities.”

            Consider the word durable. Here’s how a student might gradually master the word and add it to long-term memory by encountering it in four content-area texts:

-    The Egyptians learned how to make durable sheets of parchment from the papyrus plant.

-    With this lightweight and durable telescope, young scientists can explore the natural wonders of the earth or the craters of the moon and beyond.

-    Many durable Roman concrete buildings are still in use after more than 2,000 years.

-    Instead of having to find caves to create makeshift shelters for protection from the weather, man started to look for more durable materials with which to build long-lasting dwellings.

In each case, context is vital to figuring out the meaning of durable and gradually solidifying it in long-term memory. So is background knowledge. “This is the Matthew Effect in action,” says Pondiscio. “Those who have the broadest general knowledge, whether acquired at home, school, or elsewhere in their lives, are most likely to possess the ‘schema’ necessary to intuit the meaning of the word in context and ultimately incorporate the new words into their vocabulary; those who do not fall further behind. The language-rich grow richer; the poor get poorer.”

            Students’ knowledge base is the “context-creating engine of language growth,” he continues. “In short, schools that hope to educate for upward mobility should be doing all they can to make children as rich as possible in knowledge and language – so that they can grow richer still… Low-income children most specifically need more science, social studies, art, and music to build the necessary ‘schema’ that drive comprehension and language growth.”

            “Without a common body of knowledge and its associated gains in vocabulary and language proficiency as a first purpose of American education,” Pondiscio concludes, “the achievement gap will remain a permanent fixture of American society, and the odds of upward mobility – already depressingly long – will become nearly insurmountable.”


“It Pays to Increase Your Word Power” by Robert Pondiscio in The Education Gadfly, December 10, 2014 (Vol. 14, #50),

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Spirit Week

Barrows students have enjoyed a fun spirit week this week!  We will continue to update with pictures soon but check out the pictures so far:


Monday, December 1, 2014

Barrows participates in the REF Festival of Trees

Check out the beautiful Barrows 50th anniversary tree put together by the Barrows PTO to support Reading Education Foundation's annual Festival of Trees this weekend.  It is a beautiful tree (with more goodies to be added!)  Thank you to our PTO and to REF for supporting the efforts in our schools!  Hope to see you there this weekend



Monday, November 24, 2014

The Barrows community is thankful

Barrows students and staff have been making feathers to acknowledge what they are thankful for this season.  We invite you to grab a feather up at the main office and share - what are you most thankful for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Barrows Budget Parents

Good morning!  Just wanted to send one last reminder out to see if any members of our Barrows community are interested in joining our Budget Parent team.  See below for the description of these important roles.  Let me know if you're interested!

Reading Public Schools

Budget Parent Information Sheet


WHO                                      Any parent who has children in the Reading Public Schools may become a budget parent.  Representation will come from the following groups:


·         Individual Schools

·         High School Extracurricular (Athletics, Drama, Music)

·         Special Education PAC


RESPONSIBILIITIES         The budget parent responsibilities are as follows:


·         Participate in meetings with the Superintendent of Schools and Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Administration from December-March to learn about the school department budget and the budget process.

·         Work with the Superintendent and the Director of Finance and Operation to review, critique and give input on the budget and the budget process.

·         Understand how the budget process works and be an advocate for the entire school department budget

·         Act as a liaison between the school department and their child’s school by reporting back to other parents both formally (PTO and School Council meetings) and informally

·         Attend School Committee meetings and other pertinent meetings during the budget deliberations in January, February, and March


WHEN                                    Meetings will begin in late November/early December and will occur prior to School Committee meetings.  The month of January is a busy month with one to two meetings per week.  February and March will have two or three meetings.


                                                The following School Committee meetings in January, February, and March are dedicated to the FY16 budget.  The Budget parents will meet at 6:00 p.m. prior to these meetings.


                                                January 8, 12, 15, 22, 26, 28 (Financial Forum)

                                                February 2

                                                March 18 (Finance Committee Meeting)



Please note that each budget parent does not have to attend every meeting. We would always like at least one representative from each school at each meeting.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

All-School Assembly: Veterans Day & Community Service

We had a wonderful all-school assembly on Wednesday to celebrate and honor our Veterans and encourage our students to participate in community service activities.  Check out the presentation here:

Check out a few pictures below.  To see more of our photos jump over to our Alice Barrows School Facebook page!
Pledge of Allegiance

1st graders sing

2nd grade shares a poem

School Council leads our community service efforts

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flu Season Reminder from Dr. Doherty

It’s Flu Season

The following information has been shared with school districts about the enterovirus, flu season, and Ebola virus from the United States Department of Education. If you have any questions, please contact the your child's school nurse or the Reading Public School's Director of Nurses Lynn Dunn at


Every year, millions of children in the United States get enterovirus infections that can cause coughing, sneezing, and fever. This year, children throughout the country have gotten sick with respiratory illnesses caused by enterovirus D-68 (EV-D68). EV-D68 is one of many enteroviruses that often spread in the summer and fall. It’s not a new virus, but it hasn’t been very common in the past. However, this year, EV-D68 is the most common enterovirus that’s going around.

Since you may not have heard of EV-D68 before, better understanding of how to prevent the virus and the symptoms that this virus can cause can help you protect your children.

What are the signs and symptoms of EV-D68?

Most children who get infected with EV-D68 may have cold-like symptoms, like fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches. More severe symptoms include wheezing and difficulty breathing. Children with asthma are at risk for severe symptoms from EV-D68.

How can I protect my children/students?

You can help protect yourself and others from respiratory illnesses, including EV-D68, by following these steps:

§ Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds

§ Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands

§ Avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils, with people who are sick, or when you are sick

§ Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands

§ Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick

§ Stay home when you are sick and keep sick children home from school

Could my child get EV-D68?

EV-D68 spreads when people infected with the virus cough, sneeze, or touch surfaces that are then touched by others. In general, infants, children, and teenagers are at higher risk than adults for getting infected and sick with enteroviruses like EV-D68. That's because they have not been exposed to these types of viruses before, and they do not yet have immunity (protection) built up to fight the disease. If your child has asthma, he or she may be at greater risk for severe respiratory illness from EV-D68.

If your child has asthma, CDC recommends you do the following to help maintain control of your child’s asthma during this time:

§ Discuss and update your child’s asthma action plan with your child’s doctor (usually pulmonologist or pediatrician).

§ Make sure your child takes prescribed asthma medications as directed, especially long term control medication(s).

§ Make sure your child knows to keep asthma reliever medication with him or her or has access to it at all times.

§ Get your child a flu vaccine, since flu can trigger an asthma attack.

§ If your child develops new or worsening asthma symptoms, follow the steps in his or her asthma action plan. If your symptoms do not go away, call your child’s doctor right away.

§ Make sure caregiver(s) and/or teacher(s) are aware of the child’s condition, and that they know how to help if the he or she experiences any symptoms related to asthma.

§ Call your child's doctor if he or she is having difficulty breathing, if you feel you are unable to control symptoms, or if symptoms are getting worse.


There is no specific treatment for EV-D68. Talk to your child's doctor about the best way to control his or her symptoms.

Remember, that while this has been a big year for EV-D68 infections, CDC expects the number of cases to taper off by late fall. But even after cases of EV-D68 begin to decrease, parents and children should continue to follow basic steps to stay healthy, such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching their faces with unwashed hands. To help your family stay healthy this fall and winter, CDC recommends that everyone age 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.

For more information on:

Flu Season is Upon Us

Remember too, as enterovirus season is expected to taper off, flu activity usually begins to increase in October. While there is not a vaccine to prevent illness from enteroviruses, the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Many resources for parents and others can be found on the CDC flu web site. CDC recommends that ALL children 6 months old or older get a flu vaccine.

Ebola Virus

Finally, we know your communities may also have questions about what schools can do to keep students and adults safe from the Ebola virus. The CDC is continually updating

its information on Ebola, information that can be found here:

The Office of Safe and Healthy Students has a number of materials available regarding Readiness and Emergency Management of Schools in crisis situations, and those materials can be found here: One resource at this web link is steps the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) has taken to keep parents and community partners continually updated on the Ebola situation there, including establishing a web site:

Additional materials developed by the DISD Communications Team included there are:

John F. Doherty, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Reading Public Schools

82 Oakland Road

Reading, MA 01867


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Classroom Guests

3rd grade gets a visit from a Bee Keeper and 4th graders learn about stamps from a philatelist