Family Literacy Night
By Dr. Elizabeth Donlon, Ed.D.
According to Robert Frost, “a poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Those who participated in the Family Literacy Night on October 19, 2021, were invited to such wonder and delight. The theme for the night, hosted by the School of Education Literacy Center was “Poetry in Picture Books.” There are many benefits to reading poetry with young children, including an increase in fluency, emergent literacy skills, creativity, and writing skills. The poetry-themed Family Literacy Night included 46 students from local Catholic schools, as well as their parents. Fifteen literacy stations were set up around the room in Aquinas Center, led by 23 volunteers, including local Catholic school teachers (many of whom are alumni of Aquinas) as well as Aquinas teacher candidates. The evening began with an introduction by Sister Cecilia Anne, President of Aquinas College, and a prayer by Sister Mary Grace, Dean of the School of Education. Then, the leaders of each literacy station described the activities available for the students and their families, including nursery rhyme reenactments, read-aloud and craft for Last Stop on Market Street, “Pout-Pout Poems with the Pout-Pout Fish,” read-aloud of Thunder Underground, activity with My Blue is Happy, Poetree, 5th-7th grade students acting out Animal Ark, poetry illustrations, read-aloud of Circus Ship, read-aloud and craft with My Heart, Halloween activities and There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Ghost, Dr. Seuss activities, and Llama Llama Red Pajama.
The Family Literacy Night was an opportunity for local families to take a break from their busy schedules and simply enjoy stories together. The families had the opportunity to rotate around the stations and engage in the various poetry picture books and activities. A special treasure of the evening was that each child got to bring home a book from the book table. Books that children took home included beloved titles such as Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and Good Night, Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Rinker. There were books available for parents to take home as well, to aid in reading to their children at home, such as You Read to Me and I’ll Read to You and The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. Parents were also able to take home resources such as tips for reading both nonfiction and fiction books with their children.
Those who attended the Family Literacy Night shared positive feedback from the evening. One parent said, “The kids loved it! They talked all the way home about how much fun it was!” Dr. Yvonne Araujo serves as Assistant Principal and Technology Integration Specialist at St. Edward School and has hosted Aquinas teacher candidates in the past. She led a station at the Family Literacy Night and afterward commented: “The Aquinas Literacy Night was a great outreach that truly cultivates love for reading and the arts. It was a testimony of how our Catholic elementary schools are fostering literacy through differentiated learning.” In addition, Alison Derner, Aquinas College alumna and teacher at St. Ann School said that “while leading a station at Literacy Night, I was able to participate in the magical moment when a child falls in love with a book. These are important moments when children are able to soar emotionally, spiritually, and academically.”
The Aquinas College 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. The Literacy Remediation Sessions will begin again in Spring 2022.