A Change of Plans for the Reading Festival

This is Book Festival week at Catherine’s school. Except that we haven’t had school for two days. We had two goals for the festival: get students excited about reading and encourage parents to read with their kids at home. Mother Nature has helped us with the “read at home” part, so I won’t complain.  An opportunity is an opportunity, right?

Because of the school closings, some of the things we planned won’t happen. Still, they are neat ideas and so I thought I’d share them.

Mystery Readers – One day during the week, a Mystery Reader would visit a classroom, share a story with the kids and then talk about how reading is part of what they do. For the Pre-K/Grade 1 group, they were community responders (most Kindergartners probably don’t think of firemen as needing to read for their job!). For the 4th graders, the visitors were part of an international theme (someone came in to read a Russian folktale and talk about Russia, for example). An airline pilot was visiting the 3rd graders to talk about and engage the kids in reading maps (they  had just finished a block on maps).

Writing & Publishing – My co-chair got a grant that would allow the fourth graders to write and illustrate their own, hardbound book. The fifth graders participated in an interactive workshop with Fred Bowen, a Washington Post reporter (writes sports for kids) and children’s author. They all got copies of his book.

The Read-a-pillar – Last Friday, everyone received a template of  a circle (about 4 inches). We asked the kids to cut circles (using recycled paper) for tracking their at-home reading: a circle for every 15 minutes (pre-K through Grade 2) or 30 minutes (grades 3 to 5). The book’s title and author and the child’s name is written on each circle. Every morning, the teachers collect the circles and then tape them on the walls. The idea is to create a Read-a-pillar that circles the school.

Pajama Night – This was probably the event that excited the kids the most! It piggy-backed on a PTO meeting so that parents would be involved, too. Kids were invited to wear their pajamas to school and see their teachers in PJs . While parents stayed for the meeting (which included a “why reading is important” segment), the kids would go off with the teachers, who would read stories aloud. It was supposed to be last night, but it was canceled because school was closed. I’m sure it will be rescheduled.

New Books – Thanks to the incredibly generous donations of publishers, book reviewers, and authors (including local football heroes Tiki and Ronde Barber), every student in the school (more than 450) will take home a brand new book on Friday. We sorted the books by audience, and created an individual box for each classroom. These were all 2008 titles — books too recently published to be in the school library.

I’m disappointed that the kids probably won’t get a chance to share stories with the mystery readers. Most of them were scheduled for yesterday and today. Still, the kids came home from school on Monday very excited about the week ahead. I keep my finger’s crossed that Mother Nature and their enthusiasm combined to create a new family activity.