Indianapolis Public Schools decided to implement a new program during the 2015-2016 school year. This program places a Parent Involvement Educator (PIE) at each school. The PIEs help parents become more engaged in their child’s education and help them advocate and support their children. At Wendell Phillips, our PIE is the wonderful Elda Peña. After I settled in at Wendell Phillips, she approached me about partnering with her to organize family literacy nights for students and their parents each month.
In January, our family literacy night was called Hot Cocoa & a Book. Families were able to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa. Parents learned strategies to help their children with reading at home. Teachers and other staff members read stories aloud and modeled how to discuss a text. The night ended with parents and students being able to select a book to take home.
Last month in February, our literacy night was entitled African American: Past and Present Heroes. Our night began with a wonderfully, soulful meal. Families gathered in our library for the rest of our night. We began with a video clip of Rudine Sims Bishop, Professor Emerita of Ohio State University, sharing the importance of reading diverse books. Then, we highlighted information families received in a resource folder which included: information about African American heroes, 20 Profound Quotes by Black Writers to Celebrate Black History Month, and a 2016 Black History Month Recommended Reading List. I led three book talks about: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats; Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, and Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. The night ended with two read alouds — Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America and I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl by Betty K. Bynum. Students participated in a book discussion about the books. At the end of the night a woman told me, “I loved listening to I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl; I have to get a copy for my granddaughter.” Families were able to select a book that featured African Americans or was written by an African American author.
This month, we had a Dr. Seuss themed family literacy night. The first hour was for students in grades PreK-3 and the second hour was for students in grades 4-6. During the first hour, parents learned about Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel and why he decided to write children’s books. Families rotated through various stations: Dr. Seuss read alouds, Dr. Seuss crafts, and writing stations. Families came back together as a whole group to listen to a bilingual (Spanish and English) read aloud of The Cat in the Hat. A father of one of our students read the Spanish text and I read the English text.
During the second hour, we played Dr. Seuss bingo. I led a book talk about The Butter Battle Book. Then, we read The Lorax and students had the opportunity to discuss the deeper meaning of the text. After an overview about how to identify the theme of a text, we discussed the various themes in The Lorax and steps they could take in their daily lives to put the themes into action. All students were able to take home a Dr. Seuss book.
In April, we are having a family science night. Our last family literacy night for this school year will take place in May. We are glad that family attendance has increased with each family literacy night. Weather may be a factor, but I believe families enjoy spending quality time with their children while having the opportunity to learn how to help their children become a better readers and a critical consumers of text.