Craig elementary schools to host upcoming family literacy nights |

Craig elementary schools to host upcoming family literacy nights

Bridget Manley

Gary Johnson

For a child who gravitates toward the printed word, reading 15 minutes every night isn't a high order.

But what if your child doesn't like to read? How do you get him or her to crack a book without making it a detested chore?

A series of family literacy nights at Craig elementary schools may have the answer.

"This is a new literacy event for the year that we thought would be kind of a fun way to help parents make reading more enjoyable for their children," said Misty Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School and co-president of the Sagebrush Reading Council.

The council is putting on the literacy nights, which are free and open to elementary school students and their parents.

The events feature a presentation for parents by retired educator Gary Johnston. The purpose of his presentation, he said, is to help parents take the hassle out of getting their children to read.

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The first of the family literacy events takes place Monday at Sunset Elementary School, followed by another at Sandrock Elementary School on Tuesday.

Events at East and Ridgeview elementary schools are set for Oct. 19 and 20, respectively.

Each event begins at 6 p.m. with a free soup dinner. At 6:30 p.m., while Johnston makes his presentation to parents, teachers will take children to a variety of literacy-related activities.

Johnston taught elementary school for about 20 years — a little more than 10 of which he spent at Poudre School District in Fort Collins — before he retired in 2009. Since then, he's been talking to groups of parents and teachers about reading.

In his view, teaching children to love reading is crucial.

"As adults, we forget how hard it is to learn to read," Johnston said, adding that children must invest years into becoming good readers.

And, in his view, an enthusiasm for reading is necessary to reaching that goal.

"If they don't love to read, they'll never read enough to be good at reading," he said.

Parents have an important role to play in this, he said, by reading aloud to their young children.

"Research tells us how much a child is read to, more than any other factor, determines how much the child reads," he added.

Johnston also stresses that simply assigning children to read at home isn't enough. This approach doesn't work, he said, because about two-thirds of elementary school-age children don't read outside of school.

"It's incumbent upon us to do more than just assign reading at home because that's not working in two out of three homes," he said. "And so, my message to teachers is how can we teach families to be families that read rather than just assigning reading for homework."

Jones can relate to Johnston's message.

Parents may see that their child is assigned to read for, say, 15 minutes a night.

"And so (the children) go in their room and read for 15 minutes, but the chances of them actually getting anything out of that reading … if they're actually even completing it, is probably pretty minimal," she said.

The key, Johnston said, is transforming reading from an obligatory activity to something children enjoy.

"We've got to balance the work of learning to read with the love of reading," he said.

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If you go …

What: Family literacy nights with retired educator Gary Johnston

When: 6 p.m.


— Monday at Sunset Elementary School

— Tuesday at Sandrock Elementary School

— Oct. 19 at East Elementary School

— Oct. 20 at Ridgeview Elementary School

Cost: Free and includes dinner

For more information, call:

— East Elementary: 824-6042

— Ridgeview Elementary: 824-7018

— Sandrock Elementary: 824-3287 

— Sunset Elementary: 824-5762 

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