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Reading all the rage at pre-K center
Parents get suggestions for boosting childrens literacy skills
web 0415 Literacy night 2
Transition coach Melissa McCallar hands out literacy kits to families during the literacy workshop. Parents were given reading tools to help their children prepare for the next grade level. - photo by Seraine Page

More than 40 families attended the Liberty County Pre-K Center’s workshop Wednesday, which was the fourth session in a series dedicated to literacy and reading skills.
While their children played in babysitting rooms, parents picked up tips and suggestions from the center’s two transition coaches and focused on the presentation. 
“I came out tonight because I’m big on literacy and I’m always looking for different tips to enhance their love for reading and literacy and storytelling,” parent Gwendolyn Scott said. “What I want my children to know about reading is it’s so important. You can basically go anywhere in the world — you can read about China and be in China.”
Although the event centered on literacy, the pre-K transition coaches said the information disseminated also can help parents prepare their children for their upcoming transition into kindergarten.
“It’s designed to be a fun, interactive training,” transition coach Melissa McCallar said. “We think it’s good information for you.”    
McCallar gave attendees ideas for improving literacy at home, such as asking children to point out signs while parents are driving to familiarize them with letters and sounds. Memory also plays an active role in helping children learn how to become successful readers, so seeing a stop sign and recognizing what it is during every trip in the car will help a child learn what the red sign says. 
“The car is a wonderful place to do literary-filled activities,” McCallar said. “We really stress using that drive as literary time.”
The former kindergarten teacher said practicing with her own daughter in the car taught her how valuable the skill was for her daughter’s sponge-like mind.
McCallar gave an example of how she and her daughter always drove past Walmart, a sign that McCallar frequently would point out to her daughter. One day at home, her toddler daughter wandered over to her mother’s purse, pulled out a receipt with the familiar star and exclaimed, “Walmart!,” proving to her that the car interaction does work.
Transition coach Carolyn Kelly said listening to sounds also is a good way for children to learn how to speak and learn words quickly. Kelly played a tape of barnyard noises to help parents understand how children hear those noises — on tape or in nature — and learn how to connect the sound to the name of the animal.
“The more sounds they hear, the more interested they are to know what the letters are,” Kelly said.
At the end of the session, parents were asked to fill out evaluations and were rewarded with literacy kits to take home to their students.
Blue drawstring bags emblazoned with the phrase “Love. Read. Learn” were given to parents who stayed for the full workshop to use the materials over the summer with their children. The bags were filled with two reading books, writing journals, pencils, crayons and literacy tips for parents that were covered in the workshop.
The books given in the kits were funded with a $500 Parent to Parent of Georgia grant at the beginning of the year, which allowed the center to buy almost 450 books to distribute throughout the workshop series.
After reading the parent evaluations the next day, the transition coaches found that many of the parents plan to incorporate several strategies learned with their younger children as well.   
“We encourage all of our families at pre-K to read with their children daily, and I am a firm believer in engaging children in the car with literacy that can be found all around them,” McCallar said.
“The fact is, the more we talk with and encourage children to explore what is around them, the better they tend to pick up new literacy skills. The more you focus on literacy skills, the more successful readers they will become.”

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