Program teaches students joy of reading

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For most people, continuing education usually comes in the form of community college classwork or an undergraduate or master's degree.

However, for a few elementary school parents and their children, a long-running program has helped make reading both fun and educational, while providing continuing education for adults and youth alike.

Family Literacy Night has been a part of the Moffat County educational community for more than five years, helping to develop young readers while teaching parents how they can better educate their children.

"Our goal is to promote literacy among children while also showing parents some of the different ways that they can help their children become better readers," said Jennifer Stagner, Title I teacher at Ridgeview Elementary School. "It is important that people realize that this is not a program designated for kids with reading problems, but for all families. There is so much learning that takes place outside of the six-and-a-half hours that kids spend in school, and we want parents to be aware of that."

Through the program, parents and students participate in literacy-related activities one evening each month during the school year.

Family Literacy Night coordinators Verla Haslen, Janelle Walton, Sue Leeson, and Stagner have adopted ideas from everyday life into the program. They use events such as reading a menu or cooking while following a recipe to develop a child's skills.

"We have a lot of different programs that we use to teach both children and parents the different ways that they can become better readers," Stagner said. "Something as simple as learning about the different foods on a menu at a restaurant can be beneficial to a child. In our group, we'll split the children and parents up, and do programs for both.

"After we have worked with both groups, we'll reconvene and for instance, make whatever food that the recipe calls for. It is not the everyday learning that you are going to get in a classroom, but rather something that can be applied in everyday life."

The group also holds special activities throughout the year as a way to keep the program ideas fresh.

"We originally started this as a Title I program, but it is not for children that are behind, it is for everyone" said Leeson. "For quite a while, we had parents coming without their children. It didn't take too long, though, before we convinced everyone to come together, and we developed some great programs that help everyone, which is really a great experience."

This year, the group is planning visits from two different authors on Jan. 28., allowing them to share their experiences with reading and learning. On Oct. 4, they will hold the annual Literacy Carnival, which is a day of games, prizes, and reading.

"Last year, we had over 300 people attend, it was really amazing," Stagner said. "It is a great way for the whole family to get out and experience the joy of learning right along with their children."

After going strong for five years, the program will be scaled back slightly next year.

"We are going to go from meeting once a month to just three times a year," Haslen said. "This originally started as a good way to get the community and parents involved in the educational process, over the last few years, though, it seems as if we just can't get the numbers like we used to.

"If parents do want to get involved, we encourage them to call us at the school, it's important that parents stay involved in their child's learning."

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