"We're doing a lot of neat things. We just finished reading, `Sarah, Plain and Tall'," Allen said with a smile. The story is about a woman who goes to live on the Great Plains as a mail-order bride.
The program matches college-student tutors with about 40 children, said Ranson Elementary Principal Debra Corbett.
The school district was selected by the state to participate because so many of its students qualify for subsidized meals.
Studies have shown that many of the students in the meal programs do not eat properly when school is out for the summer, she said.
Energy Express provides free breakfasts and lunches to the students and teaches them about a balanced diet, said Rachel King, 29, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., one of the tutors.
During the family-style meals, the tutors also work on the children's table manners, King said.
The children are taken on field trips to the library and to other places to learn about the community, she said.
But most of their time is spent in the imaginary world created by books, she said.
The tutors try to make reading seem fun to the children, she said, such as allowing the children to use large cardboard boxes as houses as they imagine the stories.
The students draw pictures and design posters based on letters of the alphabet, King said.
The classroom walls are covered with the students' work.
During the lunch, the tutors keep the cafeteria as orderly as they can with a room full of children aged 8 to 13.
Yvonne Peterson, 9, of Charles Town, said she thought the program was "cool."
"If I wasn't here, I'd be bored at my babysitter's," Yvonne said.
"They encourage me to read a lot. We get to take home the books we're reading and it's very cool and fun," said Sakeia Roy, 9, of Ranson, who added that she liked "James and the Giant Peach" the best.
"I think it's a lot of fun. We do a lot of reading and stuff and it helps you learn better," said Shacole Rolle, 9, of Ranson.
Chris Duke, 20, of Martinsburg, said the children he tutors are not the only ones learning.
"It's a lot of fun to be a mentor. I love working with kids. We just try to make it as fun as we can," Duke said.