Families and children enrolled in the LSU AgCenter’s Reading to the Heart literacy program in Alexandria and Tallulah have plenty to keep them busy during the summer break from school.
Ophelia Allen, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Alexandria, and Karol Osborne, 4-H agent in Tallulah, are conducting a summer reading challenge program Books on the Go that involves distribution of family literacy bags filled with books, other reading materials, a parent newsletter and creative craft ideas related to children’s books.
Osborne is working with fourth-grade students at Wright Elementary and Tallulah Elementary schools. Allen is working with children at Acadia and Alma Redwine elementary schools in Alexandria.
Allen has 80 students enrolled in program, and Osborne has 62 students in the program in Madison Parish.
“We are finding that students are engaging in reading and writing at home and are exchanging books with friends,” Osborne said.
The Reading to the Heart literacy program is funded in part by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant administered through the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Youth Development Department.
Juanita Johnson, LSU AgCenter 4-H specialist in Baton Rouge, said this is the third year of a five-year grant in these two parishes.
“Our goal for this program is to instill a love for reading in these students. We’re doing this by having the parents get their child a library card, take them to the library and help them chose age-appropriate books,” Johnson said.
The family literacy bags are designed to help the students create their own family portfolio scrapbook. Some of the items included in the bags are a scrapbook kit, a camera, a photo album, an electronic dictionary and a reading and math workbook.
Johnson said the students are in the program for one year with the hope the extra effort toward these students will help parents and guardians become more involved in the education of their children.
Evaluation of the program indicates that youth are engaging in significant amounts of literacy activities in the home.
One parent commented that, “The reading program helps to bring more family time into the home.” She also indicated the program is helping her daughter become a better reader.
Another parent stated the program encourages the child to read more at home.
“This program is not really designed to teach these young people to read,” Johnson said. “We hope they have some basic reading skills when we get them. What we want to do with this program is to give them the tools that will create a love for reading in these fourth-graders and hopefully get their parents more involved in their school work.”
The program coordinators are expanding the program statewide by providing access to literacy program materials on the LSU AgCenter’s website www.LSUAgCenter.com.
People interested in starting their own program can preview research findings, educational resources and ideas on how to motivate children to read for fun and how to actively engage parents as partners in their children’s education.