Students flourish through family reading program
Prime Time Family Reading Time has brought multiple generations together at Garden Springs Elementary to share lively stories and life experiences. “If our mission is to get children and parents reading and discussing books together, then this program fits the bill,” said school librarian Kay Snyder, who coordinated the six-week series. “We’re advocating literacy through the family because that’s where it sticks.”
A grant from Kentucky Humanities, in cooperation with the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, funded the bilingual series at Garden Springs. It covered each week’s storyteller, discussion leader, and interpreter as well as transportation for families if needed. Garden Springs was the only FCPS participant this fall.
The evening sessions provided structure for families to stay involved and spend time with their children at school because, as mom Carolina Martinez put it, “Sometimes life gets in the way.” Aundria Elam, who is raising two grandsons, also liked the critical-thinking aspect of the program. “This makes me want to go more in-depth. I try to get the boys to talk about different perspectives,” she said.
Each week, a dozen or more families took home two books to read with their children, including Spanish translations for English learners. Then on Mondays, they gathered in the library with storyteller Carolina Fernandez and discussion leader Gwynn Henderson, who modeled engaging reading and open-ended discussion. “I like to bring the story to life and involve the audience,” said Fernandez, a medical interpreter by day. “Make it fun, make it memorable. I want them to feel excited about the book!”
The book list included “The Empty Pot,” which was rooted in courage and honesty, and other stories that illustrated big ideas like greed, friendship, individuality, and fairness. “This adds another layer. Every book has the capacity to teach us something,” Fernandez noted.
Henderson, a retired archeology professor, tried to develop broad questions that ensured the conversation flowed no matter the book or the participants – questions that drew varied responses and points of view. “Because it’s humanities, there’s no right or wrong answer,” as she said.
All of the books emphasized inclusivity, and the Garden Springs group was open to hearing everyone’s opinions, which appealed to mom Kiara Watters and her fourth grader. “We’re able to sit down now and have a different type of discussion when we read books,” she said.
Snyder praised her colleagues for the team effort at Garden Springs. ELL teacher Kristie Epperson leveraged relationships to make sure the Spanish-speaking families felt welcome, and Family Resource Center coordinator Haley Turner provided the food and prizes. Ultimately, their common goal was to foster a love of reading. “Reading through the family is going to be much more successful. The kids love their mom and dad and want to talk with their mom and dad,” Snyder said. “If the parent reads, they’re going to read.”