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Teachers, PTA team up to promote reading with Literacy Night

Colter Shaw couldn’t wait to get back to school Thursday night. Shaw, 7, who is a second-grader at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, begged his parents to come back to the school’s annual Literacy Night. He just had to find out what book he and his classmates would be reading this fall.

“I got to eat some pancakes, see my friends, and win some stuff,” Shaw said, cradling an armful of books as he stood in the hallway at Woodrow Wilson.

When the teachers and staff at Woodrow Wilson Elementary held their first Literacy Night last year, the event was such a success they decided to expand it this year. Pairing up with the PTA this year, children and their families at Woodrow Wilson had a chance to grab some pancakes, bid on a host of silent auction items and playing games, all in the name of reading.

The goal behind Literacy Night is to promote reading, both in the school and at home. This year at Woodrow Wilson teachers are participating in a new, school-wide program called One School, One Book. Every student at Woodrow Wilson will receive a copy of the book “I and Only Ivan” at a kickoff assembly on Friday and children will be able to take the book home to read with their parents. Jen Elbert, the instructional coach at Woodrow Wilson said the program, is designed to drive home the importance of reading.

“We planned the Literacy Night just to bring families into the school,” Elbert said. “We’re really excited to do this.”

Only 15 schools in the state of Iowa are participating in the One School, One Book program, and Woodrow Wilson is the only school in the district which will offer it this year. Third-grade teacher Kristel Groenewold said it’s important parents understand the value of reading at home.

“This is a way to support your child by becoming a better reader outside of the classroom,” Groenewold said.

Elbert said when teachers pitched the idea to the members of the PTA jumped to help organize the event, and by hosting the silent auction, book fair and pancake dinner found ways to make the event an even bigger draw for students and their families.

“Our PTA was huge, they had a committee that organized things on their end, and they’ve done a phenomenal job,” Elbert said.

Students will finish reading the book in December, and the school is already planning an assembly at the end of the year to celebrate the event. Promoting reading and getting students and parents to see the value of reading at home is critical, Elbert said.

“Oh my gosh, it’s huge, it’s a huge connection,” Elbert said. “Any time you can get families to visit the school the kids see how important the school is.”

As William Shaw went from room to room with his son Colter, he said he was glad to see the school focus on reading. Colter loves to read, and he told his parents how important it was to have a chance to attend Literacy Night. The family often reads at home, but Shaw said he thinks the event will motivate his son to read even more.

“I really like it, it’s good for the kids, it really gives them an incentive to pick up a book and start reading,” Shaw said.

Newton Community School District board member Donna Cook couldn’t agree more. Cook, who has a grandchild who attends Woodrow Wilson, was glad to see the event take off, and to her, there’s nothing more important than reading. Cook said she thinks the event is a success, and she’s hopeful it will keep going, and even expand to other schools in the district.

“Literacy is the key to learning,” Cook said. We’re lucky to have the support of a great PTA to help families and the school connect.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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