Thursday, June 5, 2008

Family Reading Night

On Wednesday evening I went with a coworker to a local elementary school for their Family Reading Night. Though the school has done other kick-off-the-summer-type events, I believe this was the first time it's been literacy oriented. A fun time was had by kids, parents, and librarians alike!

The evening started off with 15 minutes of silent reading in the school's gym. Families were asked to bring books, and books were provided for those who forgot. I think this is a simple activity that says a lot. It's important for kids to view reading as a pleasurable activity. Kids look up to their parents and caregivers and if they see grownups who love to read, they'll want to join in the fun.

After this introductory activity, families were broken down into three groups - preschoolers & kindergarteners, 1st/2nd graders, and 3rd-6th graders. There were two craft activities run by school staff members and my coworker and I were set up in a classroom to do our thing. Each group rotated through the stations, spending approximately 20 minutes at each station.

For the preschool/kindergarten crowd we did a storytime. We read some of our very favorite books:

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman
Who is Driving? by Leo Timmers (a very interactive book that encourages lots of guessing)

One thing I love about doing outreach like this is that we can pick stories that we love and want to read over and over again. Leonardo is a particular favorite of mine. I've yet to meet a crowd of kids who don't love this book and I think it's a really fun one to read. Plus, it's a bit oversized which makes it great for sharing with a group.

For the 1st/2nd graders we read a few picture books and briefly booktalked a few books. We read Aaaarrgghh! Spider! by Lydia Monks, How Much is a Million? by David Schwartz (one of my favorites), and Sausages by Jessica Souhami. Then we had a few minutes left before we switched, so I booktalked Medusa Jones by Ross Collins and J booktalked Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop.

Again, How Much is a Million? is a particular favorite of mine. We have it in a big book format and I think kids and parents alike were dazzled by it. I love any opportunity to share some nonfiction in a storytime and this book definitely fits the bill.

For the 3rd-6th graders we just did booktalks. J did How Big is It? by Ben Hillman and No Talking by Andrew Clements. I did Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver and Tracking Trash by Loree Griffin Burns. We would have been happy to go on all night and we had brought tons of books to talk about, but we ran out of time. The kids had a few minutes to look through the books we'd brought and then they were off to their last activity of the night.

The last activity brought all the families together in the gym for the principal to end the night with some readalouds. Families brought blankets and cuddled up in the darkened gym and the pictures were projected onto a big screen as the principal read. She may have read more before we got there, but we caught the end of The Napping House by Audrey Wood and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. It was a great way to end a great night!

I'm thrilled that this school is showing everyone how much they value literacy. The school really put a lot of effort into making this a great night and I think everyone had a great time. Our library had a table near the entrance where people could sign up for the summer reading club and many did so. It was great seeing all those smiling faces and sharing our love of books. I hope to see much more of those smiling faces at the library this summer!

In fact, I did see one of those smiling faces later that evening at the library... He stopped in to get Medusa Jones after hearing my booktalk. If there's a better feeling than that for a librarian, I'm sure I don't know what it is. :)