Riverview literacy ‘bridges’ home and school

jmarks@fortmilltimes.comNovember 19, 2012 

— Around 300 parents and children attended the Nov. 13 Title I Literacy Night at Riverview Elementary. The school provided food, childcare and insight into what children are learning and how parents can contribute to it.

Some of the most important readers at Riverview Elementary School last week barely fit into the pint-sized chairs and learning centers. But they took their homework with a smile, better equipped to participate in their children’s education.

Around 300 parents and children attended the Nov. 13 Title I Literacy Night. The school provided food, childcare and insight into what children are learning and how parents can contribute to it.

“It’s huge,” Joan Thomasson, school Title 1 facilitator, said of parental involvement in education. “I can’t begin to say, because it takes all of us together to benefit the child.”

Tasha Mitchum has boys in kindergarten, second and fifth grade. As a parent, events like literacy night help not only in showing that the school cares about her family’s education, but also by sharing games, skills and techniques for bringing learning home.

“They’ll teach us different activities to do to boost their math or boost their reading,” Mitchum said.

There will be one math night this year in addition to literacy night. In recent years such events were limited to some students. As a full Title I school, they’re now school wide. School leaders take suggestions from parents on what’s needed and tailor instructional time for the special events.

“It’s really according to the needs of what the parents say they need,” said Angie Padillo, assistant principal.

Title I refers to a federal program for schools with higher percentages of lower income families. Ann Bogan, director of elementary education for the district, said Title I designation brings additional funding for more math and reading teachers, parental involvement activities and professional education for teachers.

Title I doesn’t mean a school can’t or isn’t performing well. Bogan announced at literacy night that for the third straight year, Riverview received excellent absolute growth and improvement ratings from the state. It also has an “A” federal grade.

“It can’t get any higher than that,” Bogan said. “It’s an outstanding school where every child counts.”

If anything, Thomasson said, the extra teachers and better per-student ratios should be seen as a benefit of Title 1 designation.

“What child would not benefit from that?” she said.

Sunni Walters teaches first grade and Beth Pulliam is the first grade reading recovery teacher at Riverview. Both shared reading strategies with parents, from partner reading to “hunk and chunk,” teaching the adults how and why their children are learning the way they are.

Many ways to increase fluency, phonics and word recognition are simple, they said, like playing Hangman or Bananagrams. Teachers also encouraged parents not only to read aloud to children, but to also share instances where a word or phrase stumps them, too.

“They think that we know every word we ever read,” Walters said.

The event last week came alongside a school wide Veterans Day program, Thanksgiving celebration and Boosterthon. All of the events were designed to bring families together for education, something teachers say has a significant impact on students.

“It builds community between home and school,” Thomasson said.

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