Community schools will often open their doors in the evening to host events for families and community members. One such event, Family Literacy Nights, has become a favourite way for families to share the joy of reading. The premise is simple: Invite families and community organizations to share their favourite stories - crafts and snacks are optional, but always a welcome addition.
One school in the Central Quebec School Board has become famous in their community for the intricate costumes and theatrical performances during their themed events, complete with a tea party and prizes for participating families, donated by the English Bookstore in Quebec City. The first in a series, the Alice in Wonderland literacy night in 2018 was the inaugural event that launched several more themed family nights in subsequent years. Community Development Agent (CDA) and Valcartier Elementary School secretary Jayne Doddridge says, "We have noticed in our school the difficulty some children have reading in English, so we wanted to create more spaces and opportunities for families to read in English." These family events complement the reading programs offered to students during the school day and give parents a chance to delight in the whimsy of the event and share the joy of storytime.
Literacy goals play a major role in most school success plans. Parkdale Elementary, a Community Learning Centre school in Montreal, hosted literacy events that invited families and community partners to participate. What started off as a goal on a strategic plan, turned into a true community effort. Staff members volunteered their time and shared their hobbies. Some led storytelling activities with arts and crafts, while the school secretary set up a “Teddy Bear Clinic” where children brought in their much-loved stuffed animals to be patched up. The Teddy Bear Doctor sewed on new eyes and buttons and gave the all-clear with a heart-themed bandage. Youths from the local YMCA ran a snack bar, while the principal helped students write cards to their favourite authors. The school librarian hosted a book-themed treasure hunt and the municipal library attended to loan out specially selected books and to make library cards for families on the spot. In the inaugural year, two “Little Lending Library” cases were built by a community member and Parkdale parents were able to fill it with book donations while the second one was donated to another school. Of course, all families left with a new or new-to-them book and a list of resources from local and provincial partners who participated in the event. Books, Bears and Blankets has been taking place since 2016 and is the highlight at the end of “I Love to Read” week.
Events like these emphasize the importance of literacy in family and community environments while creating a welcoming space for families to engage with school staff and community partners. Every year, family literacy events draw together more and more families and volunteers to the event, sharing cherished childhood stories from their culture and connecting with other parents in meaningful ways.
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