Tracie Noriega was afraid she would run out of cookies Wednesday night.
The principal didn’t anticipate nearly 300 parents and students – dressed in their pajamas – crowding into the cafeteria for Family Literacy and Bedtime Stories Night.
Now in its fourth year, Wednesday evening’s event was the first time that the school included a 30-minute group training for parents.
“Parents have expressed that they don’t know how to support their children through reading,” said literacy coach Colleen Paltrineri.
Paltrineri and fellow Alvarado Elementary School literacy coach Rachel Saucedo started the night with a presentation, sharing strategies with parents on how to get children interested and engaged in reading before breaking them up into groups.
Reading becomes exciting when parents read with their children, they said.
The coaches encouraged parents to take turns reading pages or reading the lines of different characters. It makes reading a fun and engaging bonding experience, they said.
“Don’t make it like school,” Saucedo said, emphasizing the importance of supporting, rather than teaching, a child.
However, a problem parents often face when reading at home is finding the right book for their child.
“If it’s a challenge, they’re not going to read it,” Paltrineri said. She informed parents about the “five-finger rule” the students learned in class – if the child doesn’t understand five words on a page, then it’s too difficult to read.
But the right book not only has to reach children at a level they can understand, it also has to be a topic they’re interested in.
“If it’s a book about basketball and they don’t like basketball, then it’s not for them,” Saucedo said.
The coaches encouraged parents to read nightly and suggested offering TV and computer time as rewards for finishing a book or chapter. They also showed short video clips as demonstrations of how to read with different age groups.
After the group meeting, the parents and children were divided into classrooms based on grade levels to utilize what they’d just learned.
Children dressed in an assortment of brightly colored pajamas, some clutching stuffed animals and blankets, excitedly exchanged lines with their parents inside Alexandra Schwerin’s first grade classroom.
Imma Abenojar read books with her 6-year-old daughter Danielle and 4-year-old son DeAndre. This was her second year attending the event.
“The kids love to read and they like to socialize with other kids,” Abenojar said.
A multi-tasker, Tiffany Jackson sat her daughter Joycelyn, 6, on her lap while reading a book and making sure her son Julian, 4, didn’t spill the milk that Principal Noriega had just delivered.
The Jacksons were the last to leave Schwerin’s classroom as Julian insisted they continue reading.
“I want one more book,” he said, handing his mother a book entitled The Grapes of Math.
“We love to read,” said Jackson, who reads to her children every night.
The event was the last in a series for National Literacy Month, which is observed in March, Noriega said.
Throughout the month, students participated in a variety of activities aimed at boosting literacy.
Earlier in the month, students created story posters, drawing scenes and highlighting key points of books they read. The posters are displayed in the cafeteria and throughout the campus. For their participation, the students were rewarded with Scholastic book certificates, Noriega said.
Wednesday night was the biggest turnout in the four years that the school has held family literacy nights, Noriega said.
“What we’ve been pushing, and what I really see, is the building of community,” Noriega said. “To have everyone in the room together – it's amazing.”