Joey Fultz introduced his third-graders to Build-a-Bears as reading buddies five years ago at Kemp PreK-6 School. It was so successful that he’s done it each year since. This year, he was transferred to first grade, and carried on and expanded the tradition with all three first-grade classes.
“I used to have a Kohl’s Cares animal in my room — a stuffed animal with a book — and noticed kids reading to it, so decided it would be nice for students to have their own animals,” said the 13-year Dayton Public School teacher.
“It costs $20 for each Build-a-Bear, and I put together an application for a McDonald’s Classroom Grant and got it,” Fultz said. “I noticed that kids were more confident; they were practicing with their bears before reading for me. When I didn’t get another grant, I posted it on my Facebook page and got donations from friends.
“This year, I put out a request for 94 bears for all the first-graders, and received checks from friends and friends of friends,” he said.
On Aug. 22, a Build-a-Bear workshop was held at the school by the Fairfield Commons store (located in Beavercreek).
“Before, I just had it in the classroom, but with so many kids this year, we used the stage, and that made it even more exciting,” Fultz said.
The bears arrived stuffed, but students performed the heart ceremony and other activities to personalize their bears — rubbing the bears’ heads on their own for brains, on their funny bones to give them a sense of humor — before they were stitched. Then, the children dressed them.
“They named their bears and drew pictures of them. Beforehand, I had them write their own versions of Brown Bear, Brown Bear to read to their bears back in the room. Many students are beginning readers, and one girl grabbed a picture book and said to her bear, ‘This is what the pictures are telling us’ and went on to tell it the story.”
The bears are stored safely at school, but go home with the children at the end of the school year.
“I’ve had fourth- and fifth-graders come by to tell me they still have their bears, and one first-grader was so excited because her older sibling has one, and now she has her own.”
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