School literacy activities propelled students into summertime readingSep 08, 2023 12:13PM ● By Julie Slama
During Midvale Elementary’s literacy night, kindergarten teacher Olivia Warren helped students fold fans symbolic of those used in Spanish flamenco dancing. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Kids may have been sitting underneath a tree reading a good book this past summer, thanks to several elementary schools holding literacy events before school let out in spring.
Midvale, Sandy and Silver Mesa elementaries were amongst the schools that held literacy events.
At Midvale Elementary, families explored the literature and culture of six different countries: Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Mexico, Peru and Spain during their evening event.
Kindergarten teacher Olivia Warren was helping with the station about Spain. She said the country was chosen since one of the students’ teachers was from the Canary Islands and it gave them a chance to learn more about their culture. Before the event, students in the class read a children’s version of “Don Quijote.”
At the literacy night, all students could make a flamenco fan and learn about the costumes and dance. They also learned about the La Sagrada Familia Roman Catholic Church in Barcelona, which has been under construction for more than 140 years.
“We have lots of diversity in our school,” Warren said. “We have students from Afghanistan, from Africa, from Spanish-speaking countries, from all over. In our morning meetings, we learn to greet each other in students’ languages; it’s a lot of fun and a way to make everyone feel welcome.”
At the India station, first-grade teacher Annie Love was teaching students about the country’s national animal, bird, fruit and flower as well as common spices used in cooking and the number of languages spoken as students colored a printout of the flag. They also read books about the country.
“Our students thought it’s really cool to learn about someone from a different country who’s in our classes. We picked a book and read about the country, which has been great to promote reading, but also learning more about their classmates and the world around them,” she said, adding that a family brought in pictures to share with students.
Fifth-grader Vianmey Bentorc was checking out the Mexican activities.
“It’s fun; I’ve already learned about India. Now I’m reading the recipes here in Mexico, so I know it’s helping with my reading,” she said.
Elisha Brown who brought her kids, pre-kindergartner Beth, third-grader Caroline and fifth-grader Juliette, also were checking out the information about tortillas, tacos and popcorn at Mexico.
“They’ve been super excited to see all the different cultures and do the crafts that are symbolic of the countries and their literature,” Brown said. “I like the fact they receive books after learning about all the countries.”
There were both English and Spanish books provided by the Assistance League of Salt Lake City, which was part of a push to urge students to read, starting with Read Across America Day, said Heidi Sanger, Midvale community school facilitator.
“Students can explore the world around them through books, so this gave us an opportunity to expand it and invite visitors to share their unique experiences and culture and maybe teach a song or a game or some words in their native language as well as learn about their traditions,” she said, adding that there are more than 12 languages spoken by students at Midvale Elementary. “It’s a great way for our community to learn and celebrate each other.”
Canyons Board of Education Vice President Mont Millerberg also was rotating through the literacy night stations.
“I love to see what’s going on inside our schools, to see what the kids are learning, what’s being taught,” he said. “This is a fun idea to share all the different cultures we have in our Midvale area; we have such an array.”
Michelle Seguin’s two boys—first-grader Calvin, who enjoys Mo Willems’ books, and fourth-grader Jamison, who likes to read about World War II—were anxious to check out the books at Sandy Elementary’s literacy event.
“The kids are huge readers,” she said. “That’s important because reading opens doors to all things; you can’t really learn anything without reading first.”
Sandy Community Schools Facilitator Isa Connelly agrees.
“Reading is fun and amazing,” she said. “We’re helping build our students’ home reading libraries so they can stop the ‘summer slide’ or forget things that they’ve learned. Our focus is to make our students scholars so we’re wanting them to have books to read all summer.”
During the event that stretched from before school into the evening, students in second and third grade received donated books. All students could learn how to check out e-books on devices as well and look at the book fair where families could buy one book and get another free.
“We made it fun with Popsicles and different resources, literacy games, a reading nook with Jordan PLT (Peer Leadership Team) and after-school reading with Alta PLT,” Connelly said, adding that the school will have free books for students available during summer lunch times.
School PTA President Bree Dietz said there was a lot of excitement for reading generated from their literacy event.
Before school, her own daughters wanted to take off their shoes and curl up in the reading nook with books. First-grader Lynnley just finished her first chapter book, “Love Puppy,” and her second-grader, Everley, is into the Magic Tree House series.
Mallory Boggs, who is the school’s PTA president-elect, helped organize the event.
“We decided to make it an event to bring the community together at the school to support literacy and learning,” she said, adding that her boys, Quinton and Zeke, are into Lego, Minecraft and Harry Potter books and “I’m sure they’re both excited about Popsicles.”
Silver Mesa Elementary
Since 2017, black robes, cauldrons and wands have appeared in the spring at Silver Mesa to capstone the monthlong Harry Potter-themed reading activities. During the month, students earned points through literacy activities for their houses, named after those in the Harry Potter book series.
Parent Tracy Madsen brought her kindergartner Jack, who loved following Silver Mesa’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry map to explore adventures from journalism with Rita Skeeter to the wizards’ duel, as well as third-grader Eleanor, who was a fan of learning about potions since “it’s like mixing up ingredients like cooking,” and fifth-grader Hadley, who has attended every year it has happened while enrolled at the school.
“It’s a really fun tradition and they just they love it,” Madsen said. “It’s magical; they love Honeydukes (wizard candy) and the magical creatures.”
In the potions class, Professor Severus Snape (aka parent volunteer Ryan Shaw) was teaching the students how to make slime.
“In our world, there’s so much emphasis on STEM that sometimes reading gets a backseat,” he said. “But they’re intertwined, they need to read to learn more about science. So that’s what we’re doing here. They’re doing a science experiment, but they need to be able to read the directions to do the potion.”
Shaw said that students aren’t just excited to do all the magical activities, but also to read more. His son was reading the entire Harry Potter series to earn points for his house.
“He’s just obsessed with earning points for his house that all he wants to do is read—and that’s definitely a good thing,” he said.
Fourth-grader Ryker Remy, who was selected as a Gryffindor, said he picked an owl as the creature he thought was most powerful in What’s Your Patronus? session.
“It feels like it can fly and help you out of dangerous situations,” he said.
His mother, Becca, said she liked the activities as it gets him “pumped to read more.”
“It’s magical how this comes to life every year; the words on the page just transform into reality,” she said.
Whitney Crocket, mother of preschooler Archie, first-grader McCoy, third-grader Lincoln and seventh-grader Zane, agreed.
“We never miss it,” she said as they readied to go to Spanish karaoke room. “They’re excited; they love the Harry Potter theme, and the activities they do here all tie into literacy. It’s well done.”
Her third-grade son, Lincoln, was the top reader in the Slytherin house.
“I love everything here,” he said. “I love reading.” λ