Families First boosts literacy through Read to Sleep program
Published 10:21 am Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Families First Family Resource Center, based at Mary G. Hogsett Primary School and Edna L. Toliver Intermediate School, has launched a new program this year called Read to Sleep. Its goal is to boost family literacy and help children get more sleep.
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Each student in grades kindergarten through fifth grade has received a pouch with a book appropriate for their grade level and a flier with a QR code for a survey for their families to take regarding their reading habits. Students are also receiving bookmarks with Accelerated Reading (AR) information and suggestions for additional books to read if they liked the ones provided.
The goal is for families to read together with their children for six minutes each night in their sleep space, five nights a week. This can take many forms — a child reading to a stuffed animal, a child reading to their parent or caregiver, their parent or caregiver reading to them or discussing the imagery in the books or chapter names together.
The idea came from a Continuation Program Plan the center does every two years, Families First Family Resource Center Director Jenny Clark said. It’s built from surveys conducted with administrators, teachers, and parents and caregivers and helps to pinpoint student needs.
“We had an overwhelming amount of answers that pertained to lack of sleep, and it was across the board,” she said. “It was parents, admin and teachers that stated these kids need more sleep.”
The challenge was for Families First to come up with a way to address this, since there’s not much Families First can do directly about sleep habits.
“We were trying to think of a way to bridge that non-academic barrier in a healthy way that would also benefit them educationally,” Clark said.
Family literacy was also a concern due to lower student reading score data last year due to COVID-19 limiting the amount of time children were in school in person over the past couple of years.
The idea for reading together at least six minutes a night came from the number of words per minute on a first-grade reading level, wanting to make the program realistic for busy families and due to the fact that many classrooms already require reading logs.
For the books, Families First tried to choose books that would appeal to the most students. To do this, they got help from Hogsett and Toliver’s library media specialists, Norma Hopkins and Sarah Beauman, as well as Boyle County Public Library Youth Services Manager Kinsey Hisle and Plaid Elephant Books Owner Kate Snyder. The books provided through the program are from Plaid Elephant, and Snyder offered Families First discounts on the books.
Preschoolers are not participating in Read to Sleep because they can already participate in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which provides free books to children ages birth through when they start school. Families First didn’t want the programs to overlap since preschoolers could already get free books that way, Clark said.
Clark said Families First plans for the Read to Sleep program to last for about two years. She said she wants the program to be more intentional about ways to better engage English as a Second Language (ESL) and English Language Learner (ELL) families in the program, too.
As far as the benefits of incorporating reading into a child’s nightly routine and the benefits of both sleep and reading, Clark said sleep helps an individual’s brain heal. Reading before bed as an alternative to screen time is also beneficial because it helps slow down thoughts.
“If you’re reading, your brain isn’t so rapid” compared to engaging in screen time, Clark said. “It’s just processing slower.”
“Developmental-wise, if we can just have kids reading more words, they’ll have better vocabulary, and they’ll be able to better communicate what they need.”
Check out the table below for a list of what books were provided to each grade level.
Read to Sleep books
Waiting Is Not Easy! by Mo Willems (kindergarten)
What About Worms by Ryan Higgins & Mo Willems (Grade 1)
Maybe, Maybe Marisol Rainey Erin Entrada Kelley (Grade 2)
Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows Book #1 by Asia Citro (Grade 3)
Things Seen From Above by Shelley Pearsall (Grade 4)
The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan (Grade 5)