Emma Gines, 4, plays "literary hopscotch" led by Martha Martinez on Thursday night at the Family Literacy Carnival, presented by the Sagebrush Reading Council at Moffat County High School. Students of all ages participated in different literary activities at the event.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Emma Gines, 4, plays "literary hopscotch" led by Martha Martinez on Thursday night at the Family Literacy Carnival, presented by the Sagebrush Reading Council at Moffat County High School. Students of all ages participated in different literary activities at the event.

'Three-way street'

Family Literacy Carnival brings basic skills home

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Alex Nevarez, 7, right, reads cards and picks out corresponding stuffed animals with the help of Anahi Chavez, 12, left, Thursday night at the Family Literacy Carnival.

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Austin Beason, 3, contemplates his next move with the help of his mother Naomi at the Humane Society of Moffat County's booth. Beason was challenged with the task of taking pieces of a story and putting them in the correct order.

— In the second-floor foyer of the Moffat County High School, it's standing room only for parents and children.

More elementary and intermediate students arrive with parents in tow as the evening progresses. The space gets tighter.

The annual Family Literacy Carnival has drawn a crowd rivaling those at 4-H functions and high school sporting events since its inception more than five years ago, said Debbie Frazier, Sagebrush Reading Council president.

Each year, the event has drawn nearly 300 children, plus parents and guardians.

Yet, unlike other community events, this one has a distinctive educational purpose. The games the children play at booths require them to read, write and use basic math skills.

"We really want (children) to think of reading and writing as fun," Frazier said.

Sagebrush Reading Council, a local branch of Colorado Council of the International Reading Association, hosts the carnival every year using funds granted by the state group.

Elementary school teachers volunteer to help run the event, which is open to intermediate and elementary students and their parents.

The council's message: Reading and writing skills belong in the home as much as the classroom.

The carnival "shows parents how to play games with kids at home and reinforce reading and writing skills in a fun way," said Janele Husband, Colorado Council of the International Reading Association state coordinator.

The games are easy to reproduce and require little equipment, Frazier said, adding that she hopes parents will use similar games at home to teach their children basic skills.

Frazier said there's one sure method parents can use to make sure their children are literate.

"Just reading, reading, reading," she said.

And not just reading books or writing essays, but reading street signs and writing grocery lists - activities students have to do on a daily basis, she said.

Husband agrees.

"It's just like any hobby or sport," she said. "If (students) don't practice at home : they don't advance at the rate they need to."

Parental involvement in making sure students get that practice is imperative, said Jill Hafey, English Language Learner Program coordinator for Moffat County School District's three elementary schools.

"We can't do it without them," she said. "It's a three-way street: Kids, parents and us."

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