Palliser celebrates Family Literacy Day

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Students and their 'reading buddies' enjoy a book during Family Literacy Day activities at Dorothy Dalgliesh School in Picture Butte.

The events planned across Palliser Regional Schools to celebrate Family Literacy Day may have varied, but the goal was constant.

Students, staff and community gathered Friday to increase awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.

ABC Life Literacy Canada, a non-profit organization which created Family Literacy Day in 1999, says taking time every day to read or do a learning activity with children is crucial to a child’s development and improves his/her lliteracy skills dramatically. At the same time, such activities can help parents improve their skills as well.

Orishia Asher, Palliser’s Literacy Specialist, says literacy learning begins in the family. Research shows that parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement.  

“No matter how old your child is, reading aloud is one of the most valuable activities you can do with them,” she says. “It is important that you have a conversation with your child about the books they read to help develop their oral language and comprehension skills.  Reading is an active process and discussion should occur before, during and after the text.”

To mark Family Literacy Day, Vulcan Prairieview Elementary School held a “book-nic,” with family members invited to join students in a picnic setting in the gym to read together.

Milo and Arrowwood community schools held similar events earlier in the week, although they extended the invitation to other community members. The schools also offered book exchanges, group activities and a family literacy challenge which could be completed at home.

At Dorothy Dalgliesh School in Picture Butte, they marked the event with a “Read-In.” Students were encouraged to wear their pajamas and bring blankets, pillows and a favourite stuffed animal to act as their reading buddy.

Desks were pushed aside in every classroom so students could find a comfy spot to snuggle with their book. Milk and cookies were provided as a special snack and commemorative Read-In bookmarks were handed out. Each class also performed a flash mob song and dance for a video the school will submit for literacy funding.

Principal Shari Rogerson says they were looking for a way to get the kids excited about reading and there was a good buzz leading up to the event.

“I overheard one of the Grade 5 boys, who is kind of a reluctant reader, say ‘Yes! No school! We get to read!’ “  she says. “I love that because they thought they were having a little party, instead of work.”

While the focus this particular day was family literacy and the importance of reading together, Rogerson says independent reading – especially when the student gets to read a book of their choice –  really helps in the areas of context and vocabulary associations.

At Sunnyside School in Lethbridge County, students were asked to bring a book from home which had been read to them when they were younger – or one that held some special significance within their family – and read it along with a book buddy.

Parents joined their children at Barons School for a special literacy-related activity and also received a presentation from staff on how to infuse literacy into their homes. The day wrapped up with a story shared by the whole school, and each child presented their parents with a literacy-themed gift they made in class.

Coaldale’s R.I. Baker Middle School unveiled “Baker’s Bookshelf” on Family Literacy Day. An older school desk was transformed into a small, community library where students, parents and staff can take a book, leave a book, or both.

The school also held a writing project for students to complete at home with their families. A photograph was posted on R.I. Baker’s website and students were asked to tell the story behind the image in just one sentence.

In some Palliser schools, staff was busy with professional development opportunities and students were not in class on Family Literacy Day.

Calgary Islamic School Omar Bin Al-Khattab Campus has been holding a “Caught Reading Campaign” since December. The school-wide initiative sees staff keep a record of those students seen reading with draws for prizes at a book fair in February.

Parents were encouraged to send in photos of their child reading at home in a favourite spot, and teachers posted photos of themselves reading to showcase a lifelong love for books. The book fair will also see students promote some of the available titles and everyone will be invited to dress up as their favourite book character.

While Asher applauds the many efforts made today, she encourages all families to make time for literacy every day. For those looking for additional information on what parents can do to foster a love of reading in their children, she suggests: