Come pitch your tent tonight (March 2) at “Camp Read S’more.” DeKalb West School is opening its doors to the community for the second annual Family Literacy Night, starting at 5:45 p.m.
“The learning aspect is important, but to me, the memories and the family time are the most important things that would be gained from that night,” says Librarian Amanda Mullinax, who coordinates the event. “I was chatting a couple of weeks ago about what to expect from this night with our new first grade teachers, Mrs. Ashlee Thomason. She made the comment that these type things are going to be what her students remember about her. When it’s 15, 20 years down the road, they’re probably not going to remember Mrs. Ashlee teaching them a phonics lessons, but they are going to remember the night that she had a carnival out in the hall. They’re going to remember the fun, the silly, and the different things.”
Children’s author Mike Shoulders will return as a special guest speaker to kick off the festivities before the crowd is dismissed to pursue other activities. Students in all grades also will have their Literacy Fair projects on display. A Clifford the Big Red Dog carnival will be happening on the first grade hallway while visitors might spy The Cat in the Hat and other book characters roaming through the building. Hike through Winnie the Pooh’s 100 Acre Woods, stroll through a book walk with Thing One and Thing Two or tap into your inner author with a session on Cooking up Crafty Characters. Additionally, the new DWS STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Club for 5th-8th grades will be unveiled as Junior Beta President Garrett Hayes and Club Sponsor/Special Education teacher Teresa Sullivan give an overview of the club.
Besides turning literacy into a fun affair, this event highlights the strong need in education to boost children’s reading skills. DeKalb County Schools have set a goal that 90% of all students will be on or above grade level at the end of 3rd grade. Mullinax says it’s crucial to begin building a child’s reading skills as early as birth.
“A Kindergartener does not have to come in reading, but they have to come in with some recognition of sound and letters and alphabet and how letters make sounds,” says Mullinax. “Those are skills that now students are expected to bring to the table as they enter school where when I was younger, we learned that when we got to Kindergarten.”
“It used to be that first grade was for reading,” she continues. “It’s not that way anymore. Now, Kindergarten is for letter recognition and for learning to tie those letters into words and those words into sentences. Our Kindergarteners here are already expected to read sentences. If they are getting those literacy skills and that foundation from birth, then when they get here they can build, and we can keep them where they’re expected to be on their particular grade level.”
The new reading goal along with the “20 for 20” program highlights the need for families to climb aboard in helping the child with literacy in the early years.
“Literacy doesn’t need to begin when they enroll for Kindergarten or Pre-K. It needs to begin much earlier than that. It isn’t simply sitting down for 20 minutes and reading. It’s any activity that deals with the development of letters and sounds and being able to comprehend what is in that picture, even picture games where they might describe what’s in the picture. They can read a book long before they can read words. To me, the “20 for 20” in our school is very beneficial. I’m also hoping that it is trickling down in the home to the students that are going to be at the West school in the next couple of years because that ties into the 90% reading goal.”