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Midvale Journal

Midvale Elementary’s Family Literacy Night a launching pad for improved reading skills

Jul 01, 2019 03:55PM ● By Julie Slama

Families pick out books to take home and read together at Midvale Elementary’s Family Literacy Night. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Many Midvale Elementary families may be sitting side by side this summer, reading together and talking about what they read.

The dyad, or pair, reading method was introduced to the families at the Family Literacy Night: What is Your Story event, which was held before the end of the school year.

Midvale Elementary achievement coach Senja Merrill said this reading strategy is powerful and students learn how to read more quickly.

“When you share the book, sitting side by side, track the words and read out loud together,” she said. “The adult reader’s voice may be a little faster and a little louder than the student’s and may tend to lead the student in reading, but by using a finger to track the text and having eyes focused on the words, the student will join the adult in time and increase their reading pace.”

Another benefit of reading together, Merrill said, is that the adult and student can talk about the text and write down unfamiliar words to look up and learn. The method is proven to help with fluency, comprehension, vocabulary and accuracy, she said.

“Whatever language, literacy is literacy and reading with your student is impactful,” she said. “This simple practice will have a huge impact on your students’ reading skills and fluency.”

Midvale students could select books that night to take home and keep and again, during the last week of school, more books and literacy activities were distributed to students.

Midvale School Community Facilitator Heidi Sanger said that with several events during the school year from parent-teacher conferences to holiday performances, books are available for students.

“We want parents to read with kids every night,” Sanger said. “Reading is so powerful. We want them to enjoy reading, to discover and learn.”

Part of the fun of the literacy night was selecting a theme to include everyone.

“We like the theme of what is your story because it not only asks what each person’s story is, but it also includes family engagement and sharing stories as a family,” she said. “And all our families come together to create a community, so we learned about our community and their stories.”

The Cheney family came to support their children’s literacy efforts.

“We didn’t know the dyad approach of reading at the same time with our kids,” Emily Cheney said. “We read with our kids, but it’s good to know a new method.”

Her husband, Keith, said that it was good to be reminded about how important literacy is at home. 

“Literacy is the key to education so it’s always good to have more books at home, readily available,” he said. “We usually have a minute-based reading challenge set in our house, both in English and Spanish.”

While first-grader Charlotte may not be as fluent in reading as her fifth-grade-brother Cyrus, who two years ago read 4,000 minutes, including 10 books in Spanish, they both set goals. Charlotte is reading “Peanut Butter and Cupcake” while Cyrus prefers Percy Jackson books.

One activity the Cheney and other families were doing was making scrapbooks, drawing pictures and writing stories to capture memories. The memory books were distributed as another literacy tool, tying into the night’s theme.

Families also could contribute a favorite recipe, which were then to be compiled into a Midvale Elementary recipe book to be shared.

In addition, there was student book reports and artwork on display, which Beverley Taylor Sorenson art specialist Robyn Munro encouraged the 750 Midvale students to express in their drawing telling their own story. There also were examples of integrating subject matter into the artwork, such as creating colorful geode paintings with watercolors to showcase what students were learning about in science.

The theme extended outward to the community as several key area members shared their photos and favorite books to help create a community story. Tyler Library shared upcoming programs and books available for check-out with the families.

“We want to be connected with schools, to support their literacy activities and let families know what resources we have available, such as online databases, programs to help with language and research and even homework,” Tyler children’s librarian Melinda Tooley said.

Fifth-grader Ainsleigh Johnson brought her dad, Barry, to the event.

“We read together to help improve reading skills, but I learned something different in reading together instead of alternating, and it will help both of us,” Barry Johnson said. “There were a lot of fun literacy activities we can add to other fun things we do as a family, like reading and hiking in national parks.”