Reading should be a family affair

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Families of students at Raymond Gabaldon Elementary recently packed the cafeteria for a special “Readers Raise the Roof” literacy event.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Raymond Gabaldon Elementary students, pictured from left, Diego Gutierrez, Abdiel Gomez and Isaiah Castillo, participated in a ‘Readers Raise the Roof’ event in support of improving their reading skills at home as well as at school.

The focus is improving student reading skills by providing parents with strategies to use at home to help their child build greater literacy.

“We’re encouraging kids to do better in school by getting parents involved,” said teacher Sylvia Sanchez, who organized the event.

“There is research out there saying that if a parent is involved in school, their child will do so much better.”

Parental support and involvement in their child’s education helps the child do better in school regardless of socioeconomic background or other challenges, Sanchez said.

“Research tells us you are your child’s most important teacher,” she said.

Each family was given a Workshops-In-A-Box kit to create a custom home reading plan. It includes a strategies map similar to a game board.

Teachers dressed as construction workers and performed little skits with students to demonstrate types of reading activities to help parents develop their own home reading program to fit their family’s lifestyle.

“If we build it, they will read,” said Sanchez.

In a group pledge, students swore to read more often.

“I hereby do solemnly promise to read something that is of interest to me at least 20 minutes every day,” they said.

Simple things such as reading street signs and grocery labels while the family is out shopping or watching educational shows together help young readers.

“In today’s world, students need to have the vocabulary to access information,” said RGE Principal Barbara Carrillo.

“If they are doing a search on the Internet, and they are trying to get information for a particular topic, it’s very important that they have the vocabulary to extract that information.”

“Reading is the key that unlocks all the doors to success,” said Eric Zamora, father of four.

When he was growing up, his father put him to work after school. That’s how it was then, but Zamora wants to make it easier for my kids, he said.

Zamora and his wife, Volelle, have made reading an important family activity, they said.

Routine is an important element not only for children, but for parents who work full time, he said. Setting aside a particular quiet time for homework and reading makes it a special part of family life.

“We know it’s: Get home, dinner, (and then) while the kitchen is being cleaned up they’re getting their backpacks out and their stuff spread all over the floor,” Zamora said. “They start on their routine whether it’s homework or their reading assignment.”

Another helpful strategy is the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why.

When you ask your children “why” when they are reading, it helps them to summarize what they have just read to retell the story in their own words. It helps them understand what they have just read, Sanchez said.

“You just have to spend the time with them,” Zamora said. “You have to sit down with them, and you have to listen to them.”

Nine-year-old Xavier Castillo’s father, Matt, encourages his son to read out loud to him.

“You let them know you care,” Matt Castillo said. “It let’s them know it’s important.”

Castillo reads text books about biology and the sciences for fun. He’s very interested in those subjects, he said.

Modeling reading behavior is another good way to encourage children to read, educators say.

“We read every level of books — fiction, nonfiction, science,” said Amy Baca, mother of two.

Baca read to her boys while she was pregnant with each one.

“I often read to them at bedtime. It’s a good wind-down time,” she said.

Last year, Standards Based Assessment scores showed that less than half of all New Mexico children, 42.9 percent, are proficient in reading. For English-language learners, it was even lower at 19 percent.

Children who don’t speak English face a greater challenge in school because they are being taught reading, writing and math in a language they are just beginning to learn.

One of the ways English language learners can be helped is to start them in pre-school, Sanchez said.