A cafeteria with people and tables, several children and two mothers are smiling at the camera as they sit at the nearest table

The Family Literacy Night held recently at Springwoods Elementary School brought parents, students, educators, and other educational support staff together for an enjoyable night of reading, learning, and fun. The evening was coordinated by Michelle Percy-Best, reading specialist at the school, who wanted to ensure parents came away with skills and strategies to support literacy learning and ways to promote interest and engagement with reading and books. While parents and students in grades K-2 joined educators in the cafeteria to practice using story ropes and other literacy activities, in the library, parents of students in grades 3-5 were provided ideas for increasing a young learner’s engagement to reading. Families also had the opportunity to sign up for library cards through the Prince William Public Library System.

Following the session in the library  one parent shared something new she had learned. Rather than just telling her children to read every night, she discovered that talking about the title, table of contents, and other parts of the book with her children, and asking them questions about the books they are reading, will help them learn and enjoy what they read.

Parents were shown how to use story retelling and effectively support their child with understanding the relationship between sounds of spoken language and letters of written language. They heard how discussion enhances comprehension skills and language development.

For young readers, a good deal of learning occurs before the ability to access and understand printed text. For instance, reading to and providing exposure to books gives a child experience with such basics as directionality or the understanding that, in English, reading occurs from left to right and top to bottom. Sight word recognition, turning pages, and such components of sentence structure as the spaces between words, capital letters, and punctuation are all helpful components that, if introduced early, can lead to reading success.

“I’m trying to get my daughter to really enjoy reading and also feel comfortable talking and saying words, so it’s really important for us to be here tonight,” shared one mother. “I’m learning and getting a lot of tips from the teachers. I’m going to use those at home to help her.”

The evening culminated with a presentation from Ginjer Clark, nonfiction author of fun, action-packed, fact-filled children’s books, who invited input from the youngsters in the audience about everything from the definition of “non-fiction” to facts about the animals she writes about. She engaged the entire group with stories and descriptions of the characters from her books and  tales to encourage young writers.  

Students shared some of the things they learned from the presentation, including that “crocodiles carry their babies in their mouths" and “it takes a long time to make a book." One student said they especially like "the things I did with my whole family."

Family and Community Engagement Participación familiar y comunitaria