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Schools make effort to make reading fun and enjoyable

Published: Friday, April 29, 2016 12:23 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, April 29, 2016 12:37 p.m. CST
(Jason W. Brooks/Daily News)
Addyson Cibula reads from an index card as her mother, Carrie, listens during Berg Elementary School's literacy night, held Jan. 26. The event allowed hundreds of students to play games and take home items that encouraging reading while not in school.

If the enthusiasm level among the young readers at Newton’s two lower-grade elementary schools translates into total books read, it almost seems like students there could read all the books that have ever been printed.

Berg Elementary’s “Family Literacy Night” event and K-1 and grades 2-3 reading nights at Thomas Jefferson have shown not only how eager students are to read interesting books but also how much support they receive at home for their literacy development.

Both of the K-3 schools in the district have drawn hundreds of students and their families to evening events that include everything from board games to computer apps to pronunciation exercises.

Refreshments were served at the Berg event. These events will look slightly different in the future as the district’s configuration will include four K-4 schools beginning this fall.

Berg Elementary Principal Jolene Comer said families appreciate everything teachers do at school to develop strong readers and are willing to do whatever they can at home to help with the process of developing strong reading skills.

“We had almost 400 students and family members RSVP and attend,” Comer said. “This was our second year for the event. The feedback we received from students was extremely positive. They were very excited to get a new book and literacy activities to play at home.”

Comer said all of the Berg classroom teachers — along with all four Title I reading teachers and TAG teacher Sara Van Manen — helped plan the event at Berg.

The classroom teachers selected the games and activities for their grade level and then helped set everything up and supervise their stations. Katie Wallace had one station that focused on pronunciation; Amy Antle had a game setup that had students hiding their eyes while another student chose a card.

Comer said the reading teachers had huge roles in organizing supplies and logistics for the enormous event. Lora Caves ordered all of the books and bags; she and Krista Baumgartner helped give out the books and “shopping bags” to students at the event. JoAnne Price and Brenda Newell supervised the station in the library media center where parents could get their child’s login information for the Wonders reading site and play literacy games on the site.

The school gym was set up with multiple game stations that created an almost carnival-like atmosphere. The PTA sponsored the Kindle Fires that were given away as grand prizes in a drawing. One of the winners, Greenely Huff, smiled from ear to ear as she had her picture taken with her new Kindle Fire device.

“I believe that the high participation level of our families shows that our students and parents value the importance of reading at home,” she said.

“I noticed many students were reading their book with their parents while they enjoyed hot chocolate before they even left the building,” Comer said.

Thomas Jefferson held a K-1 literacy night in December 2014 and a grades 2-3 event in January of last year. This year, the staff held a “Family Fun and Food Night” on April 19.

Julie Francisco, a reading specialist at Thomas Jefferson, said about 80 percent of parents at her school are “very interested in reading.”

“We also have very good attendance at parent/teacher conferences,” Francisco said. “T.J. families are very interested in helping children develop good reading skills.”

Elementary schools and preschools aren’t the only places where early literacy is being encouraged. “A Thousand Books by Kindergarten” is the name Youth Services Librarian Phyllis Peter has assigned to a new NPL program that encourages parents to read to toddlers and infants. Incorporated into her Tuesday morning “Toddler & Twos Storytime,” aimed at children ages 18 to 36 months, the program has log sheets that help toddlers know when they’ve had increments of 100 books read to them.

Contact Jason W. Brooks at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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