A child’s formal education often begins in a kindergarten classroom, but educators say learning needs to start long before then.
Parents shouldn’t expect that teachers do all the instruction, said student teacher Delaney Lego. Parents need to take responsibility to devote and energy to reading with their children, Lego said.
To encourage family reading and to make the classroom more accessible, Lego helped organize a Literacy Night at Parkside Elementary. It was the first event of its kind at the school, and one Lego hopes will continue even after she completes her student teaching assignment.
Four classes of kindergartners invited their family to join them for an evening of bonding over pizza and books.
Students read to their parents, and parents read to their children. Families also started to create original stories about the weather.
But those activities were secondary to the real purpose of the event: Breaking any barriers between homes and the classroom.
“Studies have shown that a parent coming into the child’s school setting validates the child’s learning and in turn makes the learning more meaningful to the child,” Lego said.
But sometimes parents tell teachers that they do not feel welcome.
Kindergarten teacher Michelle Critzer said it’s particularly important to make sure international families feel engaged in Parkside activities. English language learners make up 18.1 percent of the school’s kindergarten enrollment.
“They might feel a little inhibited otherwise,” she said. “You want everyone to feel welcome in the classroom.”
Although Jesse and Amber Magnuson read a book with their son, Emet, regularly before bed, they still made a point to attend the event.
“It’s a good opportunity to see what’s going on in the classroom since we can’t be here during the day,” Jesse said.
Emet said he was happy to have his parents there, who were helping him recognize the word “back” by patting him on his shoulder. “I just love them,” he said.
Heidi Cooley and Jeremiah Soto, parents of Joslyn Soto, also already stress the importance of reading at home.
“She reads every night, sometimes to her little brother, and we end up running out of books,” Jeremiah said. “But it’s just important to be involved. She was very excited for us to be here.”
Other families who attended Literacy Night asked the teachers for advice on how to develop skills at home.
The most common advice: Read aloud with them.
“Children who read with their parents find a joy in reading that lasts a lifetime,” Lego said. “Our goal is to encourage and support this activity not only in school but also in the home.”