READING READY: Jennifer Sabol, a Slippery Rock University elementary education and special education major from Canonsburg, speaks to families in the Sharon City School District about the importance of learning to read and reading comprehension. Sabol participated in a recent "Family Literacy Event" offered at the school as part of an SRU literacy program.
SRU students offer literacy event
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Sharon City School children struggling with reading issues are finding help through a partnership with Slippery Rock University that focuses on getting parents involved in improving their children's reading proficiency and comprehension skills.
"The Family Literacy Event" offered at Sharon's elementary schools each spring and fall is drawing more and more parents, said Sherry Dupont, associate professor of elementary education and early childhood at SRU. "And we are seeing positive results," she said.
"The University has a partnership with Sharon City Schools in which we offer SRU students courses right in the elementary school and the teacher candidates, in turn, work within the district to observe and offer volunteer service in the elementary classrooms," she said. "Our literacy event is part of that program."
"For the past six years, we have invited parents to participate in learning new and better ways to help their children at home. We have seen the program grow each year. This spring, more than 100 parents attended each of the three elementary school programs, many of them who have joined in previous years. Some parents have reported they are continuing to use the tips and reading help programs we suggested in previous years," Dupont said.
The spring literacy program is open to parents of children in first through third grade and the fall program is aimed at families with children in fourth through sixth grade.
SRU students involved are part of a three-college-course block offered each semester at the Sharon schools that gives the education majors hands-on time with young students so they can see firsthand what their professors are teaching in their classrooms, and how that translates to the actual schoolroom.
In addition to Dupont, Christine Walsh and Marilyn Yensick, both assistant professors of elementary education and early childhood development at SRU, offer courses for SRU students at the school as part of the literacy program.
"We try to link the literacy program to social studies. This year the theme was 'Habitats Around the Globe,"' said Walsh.
As part of their role in the program, SRU students prepare teaching plans and handouts for distribution to participating parents. Those attending are divided into groups and visit various teaching-tip stations. The SRU students' tips and suggestions are approved by their professor and the students' teachers before presentation.
"This program is similar to the old lab schools we once had at SRU. It is just a new way of doing it," Dupont said. "By teaching our college courses at the elementary schools in Sharon, our students get to directly see the effect and outcomes of what we are presenting in our classes."
"The major idea of 'The Family Literacy Event' is to provide reading activities families can use with their child who may be having trouble in reading," Dupont said. The program works to extend learning at home for all children.
"When we first started the program, we had parents or family members who did not read to their children. Now, we find nearly all of those we deal with recognize the importance of reading to their child. Other areas, include helping students learn to attack unknown words and learn to sound them out with phonics and word attack skills from the program."
"Families take home these new teaching and learning strategies, then work with their children to become better readers. We try to show parents how to bring meaning to reading, and we have seen some remarkable improvement," Dupont said. "A number of participants have reported they also have seen improvements in their child's reading ability."
SRU Students involved in the literacy event also praised the participation, interest and the effect the program had on their own learning.
"I learned that parents are a very important part of the child's learning process, and it will be my job to keep parents involved in the classroom," said Jennifer Sabol, an elementary education and special education major from Canonsburg, who developed and implemented activities and materials used in the program.
"I learned it is very important to get to know the students and parents at the beginning of the year. I can see that will give me a sense of how the families interact with each other as well as how they work together at home," said Megan Sokolowski, an elementary education and special education major from Plum Borough.
Corey Street, an elementary education major from Louisville, Ohio, said "One thing I learned/realized is how rewarding it is to teach a lesson that you worked so long and hard on to develop. The expressions on the children's faces, along with the supportive comments from adults and school personnel, really made me feel like what I was doing was important. Everyone seemed to appreciate the long hours we put into our presentation."