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Early Childhood Education Majors Participated in African American Read-In in Farrell

Posted on Monday, March 19, 2012

Twenty-one Westminster College early childhood education/special education majors participated in the 23rd National African American Read-In Feb. 15 at Farrell Elementary School.

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

The read-in is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English to help students value diverse children's authors.  Klassen Endrizzi selected books by African American authors that the Westminster pre-service teachers shared with students in grades one-four.  Each classroom received a copy of the book that was read, donated through funding from Westminster's Drinko Center for Experiential Learning.

"I think activities such as Read Alouds are beneficial for students to learn how to think outside of their own personal experiences and promote respect for all people," said senior Christine Moudry.

"I imagined myself feeling very out-of-place, but the minute I stepped into Mrs. Long's fourth-grade classroom my preconceived notions were put to rest," said junior Samantha Garrity.  "The fact is that children are children, no matter their race, class, or gender."

"I think teachers should make lessons more culturally relevant to their students as well as students from different ethnic backgrounds," said junior Marah Alouise.

"In order to connect with children, I have to know where they are coming from and be able to see life through their eyes," said junior Hannah Garvey-Staiger.

In addition to current Westminster students, several Westminster alumni participated.  Farrell Elementary Title I teachers Nicole Stabile Lombardi and Valerie Morrison worked with Klassen Endrizzi to organize the ongoing collaboration and Japraunika Wright is elementary principal.

"As I reconsider Ralph Waldo Emerson's idea that ‘the secret of education lies in respecting the student,' I keep realizing how some of our pre-service teachers have never worked with children in urban schools," Klassen Endrizzi said.  "Considering the increase in English language learners and ethnically diverse students, even in western Pennsylvania, our students need opportunities focused on respecting the unique cultural perspectives of these powerful literacy learners."

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 email for more information.

Carolyn Swarlis and students