Family Literacy Night Session – Literacy Association of Tennessee Conference
On December 7, 2021 Dr. Betsy Donlon, Assistant Professor at Aquinas College and Dr. Yvonne Araujo, Assistant Principal at St. Edward School were given the opportunity to lead a presentation about the Aquinas College Literary Center and the Literacy Night that Aquinas College hosted in October 2021. Betsy is also the Coordinator for the College’s Literacy Center. The Literacy Center’s mission is to engage teacher candidates in literacy instruction best practices by offering programs such as Family Literacy Night, Summer Camp partnership, and Literacy Remediation Sessions.
Aquinas College received the Family Literacy Grant from Literacy Association of Tennessee and used it to host a Family Literacy Night in October 2021 with a focus on Poetry in Picture Books. This session highlighted the importance of making connections with students’ families in the support of their child’s reading growth. Tips and tricks for hosting your own Family Literacy Night were also be shared.
In their presentation they described the details about the process Aquinas College went through to obtain this grant and how the funds were used. The grant is for projects or events that are designed to impact the local community or school’s family literacy. Events must be held between August and November. Funds from this grant were used to support our Family Literacy Night at Aquinas College on October 19, 2021. The night included 46 students from local schools as well as their parents. Fifteen literacy stations were set up around the room, led by 23 volunteers who were local teachers (from 6 different schools) and teacher candidates preparing to be elementary teachers. The grant funds were used to provide a book for each child who attended the Family Literacy Night and for refreshments for the students and their families. The Family Literacy Night is an opportunity for parents and their children to come together with teachers and teacher candidates, take a break from their busy schedules, and simply enjoy stories together.
A key point of the presentation was about the challenge of preparing future teachers to collaborate with their students’ parents as the primary educators while they are still in their educator preparation program. Hosting the Family Literacy Night and having Aquinas College teacher candidates actively involved in leading it provides our teacher candidates with an experience they may not have through their school practicums or in their methods courses. The Family Literacy Night gives our teacher candidates an opportunity to interact with students and their families in an academic setting, which is not only an important part of their formation as teachers, but also beneficial for the students who attend the event.
Dr. Donlon discussed in the presentation research behind Family Literacy Night benefits, tips and tricks for hosting a Family Literacy Night, and overcoming barriers to encourage families to read aloud. Dr. Araujo was able to share her experience in partnering with Aquinas in many areas, but in particular for the Family Literacy Night, as she and her co-workers led one of the literacy stations. There were 25 teachers from all across Tennessee who attended the session at the LAT Conference showing interest and engagement in this topic. The College is very grateful to have received this grant and looks forward to other opportunities in the future to host similar events.