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Community reading initiative launches tonight

Krystle Wagner • Feb 1, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Mary A. White Elementary School is inviting school families and the community to join them in reading “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate.

The #CommunityofReaders initiative kicks off at 6 p.m. today at the Grand Haven school.

During tonight’s event, kids will work on crafts as parents learn reading strategies to help them read with their children at home.

On March 22, families and community members can participate in a book-related trivia night.

At the beginning of the school year, Mary A. White staff members developed ideas around raising reading achievements. All of those ideas included increasing parent engagement for reading with and to their children, said Principal Valerie Livingston. The idea blossomed to invite the entire community to read the same book.

“Our goal became creating a framework for welcoming all children into a community of readers,” Livingston said.

Previously, the Grand Haven district’s middle and high schools have participated in whole-school reading opportunities. Peach Plains Elementary School families are currently participating in a One School, One Book reading with “The One and Only Ivan.”

Tina McGinnis, who has been part of Mary A. White’s initiative committee, said their program is similar to what the other schools have done. One of the largest pieces is making a connection between what happens in school and at home, she said.

By getting community members involved and reading, McGinnis said it might generate some excitement and interest. She said it will also help develop connections and relationships between the community and school.

Grand Haven City Council and Grand Haven school board members all received copies of the book and were invited to join the group read.

Instead of a one-time event, school staff wanted to provide additional support for families, said Tracy Lakatos, a teacher and initiative committee member.

“Our hope is to support families with ongoing activities and strategies that promote a lifelong love of literacy,” she said. “Our emphasis will be on the social aspects of reading — on how family, community and literacy all support and build on each other.”

Although the committee initially wanted to host several reading events each year, they faced financial constraints purchasing the number of books, and decided to wait until they could raise additional funds.

One of the school’s families learned of the financial constraints in purchasing books for all the children, and offered to help. At the same time the book was decided, the family also found the book for $1 in a Scholastic flier. The family purchased the books for students in grades 2-4. Livingston said they learned they had a connection with the author and she purchased books for students in Young Fives through first grade.

The committee plans to give students a book, bookmark, reading calendar and “a set of Zoo keys which will help them unlock the seven strengths of reading together as a family — belonging, curiosity, friendship, kindness, confidence, courage and hope,” Livingston said.

Through #CommunityofReaders, McGinnis said she hopes everyone knows their actions are important and that it takes a village.

“The whole idea (is that) it takes a community to make sure that our students are getting their basic academic needs met,” she said.

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