Rather than stay home on a rainy night, twenty-one families gathered in the gym at Rockland’s Memorial Park Elementary School on Nov. 5 at 6:30 p.m. to sit or stretch out on blankets, lawn chairs and rugs scattered across the gym floor.
It was all part of Family Literacy Night, a program designed to promote families reading together.
On hand to lead the program was Memorial Park’s Title I and lead ELA teacher, Kelsey Holbrook. Memorial Park Principal Jan Sheehan, Title I Director Karen MacKinnon and second grade teacher, Maria Coveney were also there to greet parents and children. As they came in, each family received a folder with activities to do at home and bookmarks with pre and post reading discussion questions.
According to Holbrook the goal of the evening, and the whole school year at Memorial Park is to foster the concept that reading should be a regular family activity. Holbrook said, “Research shows that simply, the more that kids read, the better readers they become. We want to help families realize that in our busy lives making reading a priority, like eating or brushing our teeth, is essential to set children up for future success in life.”
On Monday night as families got comfortable, many of the children with blankets, and in their pajamas and slippers, Holbrook had them play a few word and thought games.
Next, she projected some reading and literacy websites onto the overhead screen. Holbrook explained that they wanted to share “different resources for reading other than traditional hand held books.” The websites can all be accessed through the Rockland Public Schools portal.
The first website was Storyline Online. Noting the many children’s books available to be read aloud to viewers, Holbrook chose the classic tale, Strega Nona, read by Mary Steenburgen. Families were treated to a lively telling of the story about the witch and her pasta pot.
The second website was Epic. Holbrook explained that Epic is an app and website with thousands of nonfiction books to read on a wide variety of topics, and with the option of having them read aloud to viewers. Epic can be viewed through subscriptions that parents can request access to through the school.
Asked to pick a topic, 3rd grader Hannah Corbett picked pandas. With a key word search, up came several books about pandas. Holbrook and MacKinnon led pre and post reading discussions, asking what children wanted to know about pandas and if they discovered any surprising facts after listening to the book’s facts.
The last website Holbrook showed to parents was Poetry4Kids.com and children enjoyed reading several short, humorous poems out loud. The evening ended with raffles of book collections purchased with Title I funds.
Holbrook was pleased that so many came out on a rainy night. “It was great to see grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles all engaged in playing games with language, listening to stories together, and talking about the text.”
MacKinnon also felt this first literacy night was a success. “We were absolutely thrilled with the turnout and with the excitement that the kids showed.”
To continue to help support families with literacy at home, Holbrook is hosting monthly Parent Academy sessions at Memorial Park that include child care. The next sessions are Thursday November 29th 2pm-3pm and Wednesday December 12 at 6:30pm. These sessions will focus on games to play at home to promote literacy and build fluency in young readers.
She will also be holding “At Home Reading Conference” during Parent Teacher Conference times. Holbrook said that families looking for more support setting up a plan at home to make reading routines enjoyable and productive should reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.