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Elementary Education Majors Conducted Family Literacy Night

Posted on Friday, March 25, 2011

Twenty-one Westminster College elementary education majors conducted a Family Literacy Night March 1 at New Wilmington Elementary School.

The students are enrolled in a literacy methods class taught by Dr. Charlene Klassen Endrizzi, Westminster professor of education.

The event, which attracted over 175 students and their families, was part of the National Reading Association's Read Across America, an annual awareness program that invites children to celebrate reading on Dr. Seuss' birthday (March 2).

The evening included: dinner; informal literacy conversations between the Westminster students and early elementary (kindergarten-fourth grade) students and their families; and suggestions for parents on reading with children at home presented by recent Westminster graduate Maile Kirkpatrick, a graduate student in Westminster's reading specialist program.

The pre-service teachers shared a children's book with small groups of children and families.  The books covered topics including bullying (Eddie Longpants), autism (My Brother Charlie), and bilingualism (I Love Saturdays y domingos) to help parents consider how to include critical literacy conversations when reading with their children at home.

"I asked the parents what strategies they use with their children when reading aloud together, such as asking questions before, during, or after the story," said junior Bridget McCray.  "Most of the parents hadn't considered that, so they were thrilled to go home and try the new approach."

Through funding from Westminster's Drinko Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Wilmington teachers received copies of the books for their classroom libraries.

"Family-school partnerships are imperative to children's educational success," said junior Lauren Latinovich.  "The parents and teacher need to be in close interaction with one another to fully support the child and to do whatever they can to create a ‘bridge' that connects school to home."

The event was coordinated through the efforts of Jeannie Carr, New Wilmington Title I teacher, and George Endrizzi, Westminster graduate and school principal.  Jill Wilson, an elementary teacher and Westminster alumna, also participated.

"Pre-service teachers needed this occasion to experientially consider how to work with children's first learning partners, their families," Klassen Endrizzi said.  "At first, parents can be incredibly intimidating to new teachers, but I believe these [Westminster] students gained an essential understanding of the power of mutually respectful partnerships between schools and families."

Klassen Endrizzi, who has been with Westminster since 1993, earned undergraduate and master's degrees from Fresno Pacific College and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.  She is the author of Becoming Teammates: Teachers and Families as Literacy Partners.

Contact Klassen Endrizzi at (724) 946-7189 or e-mail for more information.

Kristen Fedon (l) and Genevieve Sieckowski
Brady Sherrieb
Bridget McCray