Something magical happens when a child reads out loud, to an adult or around his or her peers. There’s a sparkle, a pride, a joy. Many parents haven’t experienced this, and we all absolutely need to.
This is the thought that kept me up late one night in May last year. I was thinking about some of the children in my first-grader’s class, the emerging readers whom I worked with weekly.
Could I impact their reading this summer, even though I don’t have a connection with their parents? Many work full time and can’t go to school functions. How can I share this experience with them? I had seen their kids grow so much this year. Many now read with confidence, and I was rewarded with lovely, toothy (and toothless) grins. Yet summer was coming, and their days may not include such joyful reading and proud smiles. Could I change that?
Thus the Summer Reading Club was born.
I discovered I could, for free, reserve the meeting room at our local library. The children’s librarians at Beacon Hill and Columbia City agreed to set aside early-reader books, and supplied extra reading logs from their reading program.
Advertising was hard. I’m not well connected with parent communities beyond my children’s school and I wasn’t sure how to reach out to parents who don’t use email. But I did what I could, posting on parent email listservs and putting up fliers.
The Summer Reading Club ended up meeting six times in the Beacon Hill and Columbia City communities, both evenings and mornings. We kept a “Reading Thermometer” and by August saw 45 children finish 300 books. Parents experienced it all, reading with or listening to their child read. We built community and the energy was lovely.
“Can we do this every week?” one thrilled dad asked me. “You can do this every day,” I replied.
You see, the Summer Reading Club was as much for parents as it was for children. Children kept up their reading skills, but parents experienced engagement in a new way. They saw joy in their child’s face after successfully sounding out a word, remembering words from an earlier page, or courageously reading books to a new adult. As parents, we modeled for each other what encouraging emerging readers without overwhelming them looks like. It was the very definition of parental engagement, and it was awesome.
Dayna Provitt is a South Seattle mother of two kids at Orca K8. She was just awarded a mini-grant to continue the Summer Reading Club next summer at community centers, parks and other Southeast Seattle places. Website: seattlesummerreadingclub.wordpress.com
Editor’s note: Check back with Education Lab on Sunday for an in-depth story about parent engagement and more guest columns about how local families can get involved in education.