Today, I went to our Mommy & Me class for our Family Literacy program, the day before Thanksgiving. It's one of the fantastic programs that I manage. It was exciting because we were celebrating National Family Literacy Month and revealing the winner of our Read-A-Thon contest.
When I got there, there were about 10 mommies, and 20-25 children ranging from newborn infants, mostly preschoolers to about 10 years old. They were doing circle time, and singing and dancing together some songs in Spanish. Then, Meliza, our Family Literacy Cordinator, passed out yellow paper shaped like corn or a flower, for people to write down what they were thankful for, and then she was posting them on the bulletin board. Then they moved to lunch, where they talked about things they were thankful for. We ate baloney sandwiches, mac n' cheese, mashed potatoes, and corn. They also had centers for playing with playdough, fall leaves and Thanksgiving foam art, computer games for children, and a cozy reading area.
Then, we all gathered around for the Read-A-Thon, a challenge to read the most number of books during a 3 week period of November. The mommies had to complete a log with the book name, time spent reading the book, and write a report on each book in order to receive credit. They borrowed the books from our Lending Library, the local public library, and from our preschool. They had to write a paragraph what the book was about, then there was a space for the child to scribble or draw a picture related to the story. Meliza had put together a beautiful gift basket for the winner with books, games, gift certificate to Barnes & Noble, makeup kit, and we got these great canvas book bags from our funder First5LA for everyone, with free books and other supplies and gifts inside, with treat bags and balloons for each child.
The winner read 123 books in the last few weeks. When Cecilia and her 4 children were announced the winners, her oldest boy, about 10 years old, started yelling, and doing some crazy break dance moves right there on the floor, like he was a caterpillar, shocking everyone with his excitement. He started crying, and then Cecilia started crying and smiling, and then the 2nd son maybe 8-9 years old started to cry, and then the older girl, maybe 5 years old also started to cry. And then, the entire room was crying. I couldn't understand a word of what was happening, but happy tears were streaming down my face.
Cecilia came to this country about a year ago with her 4 children, and joined our Family Literacy program. Her oldest son forgot how to read shortly after arriving and during a difficult adjustment to a new culture and a new life. Cecilia explained how her son couldn't read, but then through this Read-A-Thon and being in the Family Literacy program, of which one of the 4 components is to engage in literacy activities with your children, he remembered how to read, and that is what she was thankful for. (Adriana, the preschool director explained to me that this is common when children are trying to learn a new language, that they forget how to read in the home language.) She said that the time they spent reading brought their family together. So it was far more important than the prize, but how it changed and changes their family.
As a group, our mommies read 559 books in just 3 weeks. For our mommies, who attend English, computer and parenting classes with us 5 days a week, engage in interactive literacy activities at home, and send their children to our preschool or our family child care providers, it is indeed these success stories that make our work so meaningful.