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Read to Achieve: UCPS Family Literacy Day puts fun in fundamental

Union County Public Schools (UCPS) offers Read to Achieve Camps (RtA) to help young students who need a boost in their reading skills. These summer camps are for elementary students, especially those not yet reading at their grade level at the end of third grade. With personalized lessons from experienced teachers, the camps provide fun and engaging activities to make reading enjoyable. The goal is to improve students' reading abilities and prepare them for future school success. Parents also receive tips and resources to support their children's reading at home, ensuring a team effort in promoting literacy.

On June 27, East Elementary hosted a Family Literacy Day, an interactive presentation focused on preventing summer learning loss for parents with students in the camp. The event, attended by 71 parents, was offered in English and Spanish to ensure accessibility for all families. They learned to tell, write and summarize a story with five simple steps called "Somebody Wanted But So Then."

  1. Identify the main character (Somebody).
  2. Identify what they wanted (Wanted).
  3. Describe the problem they faced (But).
  4. Explain how they solved it (So).
  5. Describe how the story concluded (Then).

During the presentation, Paulette R. Pipkin, a district Title I specialist and Linda O'Connor, the district's family engagement specialist, demonstrated how this method worked using the stories of "The Three Little Pigs" and "Goldilocks and the Three Bears." The presenters asked questions about the stories to help parents understand how the steps worked.

After that, parents created their own stories using the process. Forming into groups, they collaborated closely, sharing laughs and brainstorming creative characters and narratives to complete the activity. One of the stories was about a kitty and a puppy who wanted food and water, but the food and water were in the house. They couldn't get in, so they climbed through an open window. Then they climbed out before the man could wake up to catch them. Another was about a mouse who wanted to eat some cheese, but there was no cheese, so he climbed on a table to find the cheese. Then he got stuck in a mouse trap. 

Parents received UCPS neon green backpacks filled with fun resources for their children, which included a magnetic whiteboard, magnetic letters, dry-erase marker and eraser, a whisper phone, a set of five Scholastic books, a family guide to literacy and a reading journal.

A whisper phone is a simple device that helps children hear themselves when they read aloud. Shaped like a phone receiver, it directs the sound of their voice into their ear, making it easier to focus on how words sound. It helps improve pronunciation, reading fluency and self-correction.

Another exciting part of the event was when the UCPS Mobile Book Bus stopped by so parents and their children could pick out more books.

"Families play a critical role in our students' academic success. During Family Literacy Day, parents learned and participated in practical ways to support their children's literacy growth at home," said Pipkin. "They also had the opportunity to explore the Book Bus with their children, selecting books to add to their home libraries and promoting reading beyond the classroom."

Pipkin attributes the event's success to Site Administrator Dr. Geraldine Bacchus, and the teachers' extensive efforts. They reached out to parents of RtA Summer Camp students through many communication methods, effectively encouraging parent participation.

Parent Griselda Reyes found the presentation valuable and practical, as she learned new English words and effective techniques to use with all three of her children at home.

"We created a story about a family that wanted to go to Hawaii but missed their plane," said Heidi Merchant. "I'm glad my son is in the summer camp to reinforce his skills. He's also enjoying it."