By Dedra Cordle
Covering a long table in the cafeteria at Prairie Norton Elementary School were all sorts of goodies. There were fruit cups, mini-donuts, juice boxes, milk cartons, and cute little pastries set out and ready to be devoured by the second graders who were filtering into the dining area. But a strange thing happened on their way to the edibles when they looked around and discovered that other tables were filled with books, lots and lots of books.
As it was nearing lunch time, the students had a tough decision to make: Do they head to the food table first and pick up the sweet treats before they run out? Or do they head to the book table first and pick up the sweet treats before they run out?
Having no knowledge of the hundreds of books ready to be placed on the table in case of a picked clean emergency, the students collectively headed right toward the book table to make their selection even as the scent of delicious food wafted through the air.
Trinia Martin, a literacy coach and reading recovery teacher, said that sight was repeated the previous days when different grade levels had their free book pick-up event as well.
“We do like to see them excited about reading,” she said.
Though the school has always stressed the importance of literacy, Martin said they have been trying to do something new and fresh with students and their parents to encourage and cultivate a love for reading.
She said that in the past, the school would host evening events to celebrate literacy and other academic pursuits, but they discovered that evening hours were not great times for the parents to come out. Heeding their advice, the school changed those events to the morning hours and quickly discovered that those hours were more accommodating.
“We would invited moms to come out for ‘Muffins with Mom’ and dads to come out for ‘Donuts with Dad’ and those morning events were always well attended,” Martin said.
Wanting to take their celebration of student literacy and parental participation one step further, the school started a week-long celebration three years ago and invited the parents to come out and visit their children in a classroom setting. Based on the smiles and reactions from students and parents alike, the school knew they had a best-selling event on their hands.
“The attendance has doubled each year we have done this,” Martin said.
Tanya Holder, who came to visit and read with her son Kalel, said that she appreciates the effort the school is making to encourage student literacy and parental participation.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “If the educators are not looking out for our kids and if we’re not there for them and putting in time for them as parents, who’s gonna?”
Martin said she is very happy that the school seems to have found a way to create excitement about literacy in a way that everyone can enjoy.
“Literacy is so important because it is the foundation to everything we do,” she said. “We deal with it at school, in our personal lives, and in our work lives. Reading, writing and communication are keys to success and that is what we want for all of our students, for them to succeed.”