SELMA – When you listen to first-grade teacher Yvette Huante talk about the importance of reading to your children - no matter what language - you can hear the enthusiasm in her voice.
“Regardless of their education or their language, parents need to know they can do it. They are their children’s best teachers and we want to inspire them. They can help and teach their kids about how important it is to read to them.”
Huante was among staff at Garfield Elementary wrapping up their third literacy night on Jan. 24. The theme that night was "Snow Many Books." The kids grouped together as penguins, polar bears, mittens or snowflakes and rotated through classrooms listening to book readings, making snowmen out of marshmallows or playing book bingo in the school’s new library. Meanwhile, their parents took part in journaling and technology demonstrations and later listened to local author Enedina Reed.
“We had a full house and everybody came away with something either to learn or teach their kids,” Huante said. “And the kids all got books. That’s what our goal is to get books in those kids’ hands.”
Selma Unified’s literacy coach Belen Hoyt demonstrated how families can keep journals to encourage their children to write.
“You can take pictures and put them in the journal and have the kids write about those pictures,” Principal Monica Chapa said. “That connects the link from reading to writing.”
Maria Petropulos, Selma Unified’s Library Services Coordinator, said she was eager to show parents how to upload the Overdrive app that gives families ongoing access to books.
“They can take these e-books with them everywhere,” she said. “So when they’re driving, they can listen to books. That’s a huge part of the development of reading. To me, reading is the foundation of everything. Once students can read, they can do all the other stuff in school.”
Enedina Reed read from both the Spanish and English versions of her autobiography. She said she feels compelled to share her passion of writing and the book’s message of overcoming trials.
“My hope is that in hearing my message, it will help them with their daily challenges. Even we our adults have our challenges so we need to hold on to a glimmer of hope. I feel that if God gives me all these blessings, I want to share those blessings because I know how it is to be a young person struggling. I saw it in my youth, I see it in my job and I want to be that person who encourages our parents.”
Reed said reading can also help build vocabulary and language skills so she encourages parents to encourage reading at home.
“If their children are learning English or struggling in language arts, reading will help them. They’ll see they’re learning so much and they’ll want to keep reading and growing. The power of reading can take you to so many places. It’s a healthy outlet and as a fourth-grader, I used it to learn and improve my English.”
Meanwhile in one of Garfield’s classrooms, second-grade teacher Cheryl Allen helped students gather marshmallows, pretzel sticks and chocolate chips into sandwich baggies to take home and make a snowman. Reading a book to them, she pointed the cover art and asked excitedly, “Do you think it’s going to happen? Do you think it’s going to snow?”
Later, Allen recalled how at previous literacy night events she had parents choose from reading materials in her classroom. She intentionally brought in dull books but also colorful magazines on cooking, gardening and cars.
“I let the parents choose something then I asked, ‘Why did you pick that book instead of this boring one?’ I said it’s the same when I teach reading. The kids have choices as to what they’re going to read. If you give kids books they don’t enjoy reading, what are they’re going to do with them? I want to promote life-long learners and readers.”
Allen said parents need to let their children see them reading to encourage the same in their children.
“Parents are the child’s first teachers. If they can show the enjoyment and the love of reading, I think that would foster the love of reading in their child.”
Garfield librarian Veronica Esparza said parents can also encourage a love of reading by having crafts or activities based on books they’ve read.
“A lot of times we read a story and then we’ll do a coloring page. Or I’ll read a story and have them predict the ending. They can draw pictures of their favorite character or make up their own character. I’ll ask, ‘What would your book title be if you were the author?’ Then, I have them draw a picture to illustrate it.”
Another idea Esparza shared was to talk about the books by first reading the preface at the beginning, looking at the cover art and predicting what a book is about.
“It develops a lot of communicating skills and understanding what they’re reading.”