Avalon Elementary kicks off reading month with fun for the family

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 16, 2015

 Seven-year-old Gabi Peoples and her sister, 10-year-old Raven, play a game of Sneetches in the “Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss” room during a reading night at Avalon Elementary while teacher Andrea Gastmeier and 8-year-old Isabella Wonsowicz watch.

Seven-year-old Gabi Peoples and her sister, 10-year-old Raven, play a game of Sneetches in the “Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss” room during a reading night at Avalon Elementary while teacher Andrea Gastmeier and 8-year-old Isabella Wonsowicz watch.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — With games, prizes and a magician, teachers at Avalon Elementary hoped to spark a love of reading in students and their families during a special reading night March 10.


It’s to “encourage families to come out and celebrate the joy of reading together,” said first-grade teacher Heidi Ross.


While the school is holding plenty of activities during the school day to get students excited about reading, the night was the “family component” to spark the same, she said.


“We want them to enjoy reading with their children,” she said. “Seeing this cozy read-in, they’ll realize, ‘We can do this at home.’”


Sponsorships from Kroger, Mercedes-Benz, Johnny B’s Cookies and Village Market all helped make the free event a community effort.


During the reading night at Avalon on March 10, there was a cozy room where parents and students could cozy up together on beanbag chairs, carpets and pillows to enjoy some shared reading. A Michigan word fun room had students working on word searches with a Michigan theme and trying to create as many words as they could from the words “Michigan state.” And in the “Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss” room, students played games connected to Hop on Pop, Yertle the Turtle, and more. The night concluded with a comic magician teaching the children about Michigan’s products and industries in his show, “Magical Wonders of Michigan.”


“We really want to help parents give an importance of reading at home,” said Beth Baird, the school’s literacy intervention specialist. “It’s important to read to your child, read with your child, and have your child read by themselves.


That’s the idea behind shared reading, where families pick a book or a poem they can read together each day during the week to improve student fluency and reading ability.


“We want everybody else to discover the pleasure of reading,” Baird said.


Avalon Elementary is celebrating the state of Michigan with its reading month theme of “Michigan on the Move,” helping students learn more about the state and connecting that with reading.


Each class has chosen a city in Michigan to learn more about, and it will become pen pals with a school in that city, said Jeanne Poleski, principal of Avalon Elementary.


“It’s good for them to come and see their friends, get some books and improve their reading skills,” said parent Roger Meade, in the Dr. Seuss room with his children after they picked out books at the night’s book fair. “They seem to like it.”


Sharon Bertges, a grandparent of students at the school, said she appreciates that the school finds different ways to show the children that reading is fun, because she didn’t learn that lesson when she was younger.


“I didn’t like to read, and it really helps with your vocabulary and knowledge,” she said.


Parent Tim David said that all the emphasis on making reading fun has paid off for his daughter, who reads more at home now than she did before. And, he said, he appreciates all the extra efforts of the school staff.


“It’s good to see the teachers here after hours,” he said. “Their workday never ends.”


And, he said, “It’s good to have the book fair because there doesn’t seem to be bookstores around anymore.”


Poleski said the point of the event is to help students learn to love reading as much as their teachers do.


“Just to have that passion that we have for it,” she said, adding that student scores have been increasing in reading over the past few years. That, she said, is evidence that the emphasis is paying off.


“The idea is to get all of Michigan reading,” she said.

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