Vail Mountain School expands students’ vocabularies |

Vail Mountain School expands students’ vocabularies

Emily Tamberino
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily"Donavan's Word Jar," the summer reading selection for Vail Mountain School's lower school, is helping students expand their vocabularies this summer.

VAIL, Colorado –This summer, in addition to fireflies, Vail Mountain School’s kindergarten through fifth-grade students will be capturing words in a jar.

“Vocabulary acquisition is a vital component of developmental growth in young children,” said Lower School Division Director Deb Deverell, who has challenged the students to become “word detectives.”

This exploration is inspired by the students’ summer read, “Donavan’s Word Jar,” by Monalisa DeGross.

Deverell and school librarian Lorraine Haslee thoughtfully choose a book for the entire lower school to read each year. This tradition is in its eighth year and is part of the school’s culture now, Deverell said.

The school’s Parent Partners group raises funds to provide copies of the book to each student. Proceeds from Vail Mountain School’s annual Book Fair have funded special visits from the authors of some of the books the school has read. The students are always excited to find out what the summer read will be, and endearingly enough, students can be spotted sneaking in a few pages of the book at graduation, just hours after they receive it.

“Donavan’s Word Jar” is a story about a young boy who collects words. Every time he learns a new word, he writes it down and puts it in a word jar, until one day when he realizes that his jar is full. His journey continues as he finds a way to keep all his words and collect new ones.

Haslee worked with faculty and Deverell to find just the right book that would appeal to kindergarten through fifth-graders, boys and girls alike. Parents have been asked to read the story as a family, and students have been encouraged to lead the way in creating a family dictionary and personal word jar.

“The power of reading aloud as a family is profound. It’s an activity that doesn’t cost money, and it allows for special time together,” Deverell said.

Deverell and Haslee have discovered that vocabulary knowledge is an excellent predictor of reading comprehension and because they’ve found that students must have 12 meaningful encounters with a new word in order to “own” it, they are asking families to choose new words to use in their daily conversations. The school will spend the upcoming year talking about words and using word acquisition as a theme for lessons and special activities. Red Sandstone Elementary School has also joined Vail Mountain School in reading “Donavan’s Word Jar.”

The lower school summer read is not only a tradition and springboard for the upcoming school year, it is a reflection of Vail Mountain School’s mission and philosophy, school-wide themes and community goals. With a strong emphasis on character education, the school’s choice to introduce students to Donavan – a young man who is thoughtful of people of all ages, inquisitive in nature, and community-spirited – was an intentional one.

“The qualities of literary characters can be influential to us all,” Haslee said. “Donavan models positive characteristics that children and adults alike should remember.”

Have a news story you’d like to see published? Contact Community Editor Lauren Glendenning at or 970-748-2983.

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