Madison Poreda was bouncing with anticipation on Tuesday evening, Sept. 24. She and her father, Ryan, were among the kindergarteners and parents waiting for the elementary school doors to open. It was the kick-off for the Great Beginnings Family Reading Program, and Madison had donned a special t-shirt for the event with the slogan, “Reading is the best!”
The free family reading program is offered to pre-K and kindergarteners this year. Every other month, participating families receive a literacy kit containing a fun picture book and a folder filled with a parent guide for that story plus hands-on activities such as crafts, games and recipes for the family to engage in. Children can keep the books, but parents will need to return the folders and kit bags at specified times so they can be re-filled. By the end of the school year, each child will have five new books.
Tuesday’s event served a two-fold purpose, said Wendy Bruttomesso, elementary library teacher. Parents picked up the reading kits and also participated in an interactive story reading. Bruttomesso, who organized the evening story event, said that she wanted to model what a read-aloud could look like at home. More than 20 kindergarteners settled onto the floor in their criss-cross-applesauce positions as Bruttomesso held up the book of the night: “No Sleep for the Sheep,” written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic.
Before opening the cover, she spent a moment talking about the title and the author. Then Bruttomesso invited the children to predict what the story was about. “Sheep!”
“What else do you notice?” Bruttomesso asked. The kids listed other animals they saw and, based on those observations, reasoned that the story took place in a barn. Unlike bedtime stories, interactive story time actively engages children in the book. As she read, Bruttomesso often invited children to talk about the illustrations. “I wonder who that is,” she said, pointing to an animal waddling towards the barn.
“A duck!” the kids shouted. They broke into quacking.
“Do you think the sheep is asleep anymore?”
“Nooooo!” replied the kids. After a couple more animals interrupted the sheep’s sleep, Bruttomesso asked the kids whether they saw a pattern in the story.
“Yes!” a few replied. “Another animal will show up.” The kindergarteners were totally engaged in the story, making animal sounds and shushing noisy animals. They weren’t the only ones enjoying the tale; most parents were chuckling along. Perhaps they could identify with the poor sheep that finally caught some zzzzz’s only to be woken up by the rooster!
At the end, Bruttomesso asked the children to share what parts they liked best. Then she reminded them that their job is not to be an animal that wakes everyone else up at night. “Your job tonight is to…..”
“Sleeeeep!” chorused the kids. While parents picked up the literacy kits, the kids found book-related activities to do: gluing wool on a sheep, creating a farm using stickers, singing “Old MacDonald,” or leafing through books about farms and farm animals. Bruttomesso also encouraged families to sign up for a library card at Candor Free Library.
“This is great,” said Jeanne Halstead. She reads a lot to her children, a kindergartener and third-grader, and maintains an ever-growing library at home. She’s looking forward to this month’s book (“Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”) and activities.
Next month the pre-K children and their families will gather for a similar event and go home with their own books. The district is funding the reading program, which not only supports literacy but also helps strengthen the connection between home and school. Kindergarten families will get new kits in November, January, March, and May; preschoolers get theirs on the alternate months.
More literacy resources: Parents seeking an inexpensive way to build their children’s libraries will find plenty of books for all ages at the Oct. 10 to 12 book sale at Candor Free Library. In addition, the library has 10 literacy backpacks available for borrowing. The backpacks contain books, puzzles, and educational games aimed at preschool to first grade, plus parent guides filled with learning activities that support reading, math and curiosity.