A new way to strengthen young kids’ literacy skills
As parents, we love to watch how enthusiastic our children can be as they explore and learn new things about the world around them. Some Douglas County School District parents are learning new ways to tap into this enthusiasm while benefitting their literacy skills.
Parent Academies for Literacy (PAL) is a new family and engagement literacy event for kindergarten, first and second grade students, with the goal of enhancing families’ connections to their children’s schools, as well as parent knowledge about early literacy skills and reading. DCSD’s Literacy team members are partnering with Reading Recovery teachers, K-2 classroom teachers and school principals in order to provide this new offering for schools and families. Funded by a Title I grant, the program runs for one hour after school, one day a week for three weeks, with each session building on the previous session. Children of all literacy skill levels are welcome to participate.
Since this past May, South Ridge Elementary and Cherokee Trail have each hosted a PAL event. Pioneer Elementary and Pine Lane Elementary are both hosting PAL sessions this month.
“My little one has been struggling a little bit. As busy as I am, I knew this would be beneficial for her,” said Kerry Holman, one of the parents currently participating in Pine Lane’s PAL event.
So what exactly happens in these PAL sessions? Families get a free meal while bonding with their children, thanks to sponsors like Firehouse Subs and Raising Cane’s Chicken. Everyone then engages in a large group activity that involves parents reading aloud to their children, stretching out words and knowing what to say when your child is stuck while reading.
“The whole point of this exercise is for them to hear the sounds as they stretch out their words,” explained Kathy Tirrill, DCSD Coordinator of Literacy Interventions.
Families then break into rooms based on grade level. They are additionally given activity packs, which contain items like a mini whiteboard, magnetic letters, sidewalk chalk for kids to practice spelling outdoors, game booklets, resource booklets and more.
“I like that they give us all of the tools to work on my daughter’s skills, and she has bigger sisters that can help her practice at home,” Holman said.
Teachers purposefully provide multiple strategies for families to engage their children as they work to heighten their literacy skills.
“We’re trying to get all different modalities of learning, the seeing, the feeling, the hearing. Any way you can get them to practice it will be good, whichever way works best for your child,” explained Molly Klenovich, a Reading Recovery teacher at Pine Lane.
This session was the second of the three PAL event sessions. Parents who attended last week returned for the second week, plus there were a few new faces there.
“Parents were super excited to receive the materials last week, and after our presentation we gave them a chance to sit and read with their children,” Klenovich said. “It was the cutest thing, kids were sitting on their parents’ laps as they were reading books. We practically had to force them out at the end of the evening because they were having such a great time!”
Another tool in each classroom was an aluminum tray filled with salt, so that kids could use their finger to write out letters or words while sounding them out. Seeing this as a game, Holman’s daughter, Anna, said she was most excited to try this at home.
“Ultimately, I hope that these sessions leave kids feeling more competent so they can be more successful in the classroom,” Klenovich said.