Sunday, March 20, 2016

OES Reads 2016: Family Night

Our whole-school/community reading initiative, OES Reads, is in it's fourth year, and with each year, we think the program grows better and better. Aside from selecting the books that will connect us and planning the big launch, Family Night is the part of our program that requires the most planning.

Family Night is deserving of so much attention and effort. We gather families of all students, grades PreK-6 and offer a smattering of activities related to our common book experiences that families can engage in together. This year, 58 families came to school on a Tuesday evening to meet our OES Reads author, Cynthia Lord, and participate in Family Night fun!

Family Night stations were situated across the cafeteria, gymnasium, music room, and lobby area of our school building. Most activities were related to our two OES Reads books, Rules and Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean, but we snuck in some connections to Ms. Lord's other books, too. Look and see!

We were incredibly fortunate to have Cynthia Lord join us for a Meet & Greet at our Family Night event! A steady line streamed through the cafeteria for the chance to meet Ms. Lord and have their books signed.

Our committee felt strongly that we wanted to incorporate a component of community service into OES Reads this year, having selected two books that inspired giving back. We invited representatives from Responsible Pet Care to join us with an information station about our local animal shelter. We also advertised a Shelter Drive and collected goods to donate to Responsible Pet Care. And, families also visited a craft table with an assortment of ideas for making simple pet toys. All of the toys families made were also donated to the shelter.
Additionally, we were joined by a parent of an OES alum who set up a table for raising awareness and understanding about autism. Nearby, families could find more information about the Light it Up Blue initiative for Autism Awareness Month in April and could design a symbolic blue candle that we will use to help celebrate in solidarity next month.
Our Phys. Ed. teacher was on hand with a physical challenge for students to complete using a wheelchair and other assistive devices. Families posted their reflections about the experience. Families also faced a communication card challenge activity at another station.
Our district librarian helped to create a display of Schneider Family Book Award winning titles that could be recommended to students and families for future reading.

Down the hall, laughter was heard while families picked out props and had their picture taken in our Cynthia Lord photo booth. There were generic "book nerd" props, but most props were related to other Cynthia Lord books. There was a camera/paddle/lifejacket set from Half a Chance, Fourth of July gear from Touch Blue, an enormous blueberry/pageant sash/crown from A Handful of Stars, and a helmet, goggles, and student-sized race car from Hot Rod Hamster. The pictures on the photo booth camera speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, the cafeteria was buzzing with excitement, too. Two tables hosted a craft activity where families could stitch up their own Whiskers craft and make a friend to keep in their pocket just like Suzannah does in Shelter Pet Squad.
On the opposite side of the room, folks were busy at work in the "junkyard" of collected recycled materials where families engaged in a Hot Rod Design Challenge, racing their constructed cars down a ramp to win prizes.

And, since no gathering is without snacks, volunteer staff helped to serve Hamster Snacks of crunchy veggies and tasty blueberry smoothies to families, too.

Because we are a Title I school, and we use some of our parent involvement money to purchase some of the OES Reads books for families, we are required to conduct parent education during the event, though we try to be creative about how. We find that a brief parent session where staff and parents can swap ideas for supporting literacy at home does the trick, and it permits students to hear a read aloud--this year our library tech shared more Hot Rod Hamster books--in the adjoining room, too. We offer these sessions on a rotation so that families are only apart from the action for a short time.

OES Reads Family Night was an exciting night all-around. It was wonderful to introduce families to Cynthia Lord in person. We had an awesome turn out of staff to help support the event and interact with families, and our kids had a really great time. One student bounced into breakfast on Wednesday morning announcing, "Last night was the best night ever!"

We're so glad that connecting over books can be so fun.
Most--but not all--the staff who supported OES Reads Family Night
having photo booth fun with Ms. Lord.
This week, we'll wrap up OES Reads for another year, but not before we host Cynthia Lord on Thursday for a whole-school author visit and our Closing Celebration!