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Linda Mah
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Reading and Riding at Northeastern

Club Uses Bikes to Inspired Kids to Read More Books

Kids like bikes, and Northeastern Elementary School parent liaison O’Neal Ollie is using that fact to encourage students to read more and to explore math concepts.

For the third year, Ollie has organized the school's Reading and Riding Book Club. Students work on bikes, go for trail rides, and read books about bikes and bike safety. They learn math skills by mapping routes and calculating distances.

“It’s simple, kids read more about things they’re interested in,” Ollie said. “And it doesn’t take a doctor to know kids need more exercise. From the health standpoint, all kids should be out riding their bikes.”

The program is popular enough to draw returning club members, such as fifth-grader Anthony Kelley and fourth grader Armon Coy.

“It’s fun to learn about bikes and how they work,” Anthony said. “And I get to ride my bike.” Armon said, “I think it’s pretty fun, and I like helping the little kids. I can encourage them.”

Armon said the club helped him replace the brakes, inner tubes and seat on his bike.

Each session of the club kicks off with a bike repair workshop with Open Roads, a Kalamazoo youth development nonprofit that teaches social skills through bike mechanics.

This year Open Roads program manager Dave Brown, mechanic and social skills instructor Aaron Kosobucki, mechanic Lily Lewis, and junior instructor Drew Shanafelt, who is a Kalamazoo Central student, worked with students during the club’s first meeting of the year.

Open Roads is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. It’s known in the community for its Earn-A-Bike program, in which children can refurbish and earn bikes that have been donated by the community. The program also holds Fixapaloozas, community gatherings at which participants can learn about bike maintenance and tune-up their bikes with free bike parts. Their volunteer work at Northeastern is a variation on the Fixapalooza.

“We’re teaching basic bike mechanics to prepare them for their future,” Brown said.

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