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Westminster education students, area families collaborate to build literacy skills

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Posted on Monday, July 6, 2020

A special project in Westminster College’s School of Education gives preservice teachers hands-on experience and a unique understanding of their role in helping children develop key reading and writing proficiencies.

Family Literacy Night provides students in Westminster’s Early Childhood Education’s Teaching and Learning Labs with the opportunity to collaborate with local families to help build crucial literacy skills.

This spring, 10 Westminster students worked with more than 100 children and families from the Wilmington School District. Students arrived at the Family Literacy Night event dressed in slippers and carrying blankets to celebrate “A Seussical Family Slipper Party.”

The preservice teachers designed and conducted developmentally-appropriate reading and writing activities—aligned to Pennsylvania literacy standards—for children in grades kindergarten through fourth grade.  Families shared their home literacy tactics and engaged with their children using the strategies offered by the preservice teachers. Bags of books, manipulatives and resources were offered to all who attended.

“Children’s literacy grows when children are engaged in an environment where reading is interactive and social,” said Addie Hogg, a Title 1 teacher in the Wilmington School District and a 2008 graduate of Westminster College. “Family Literacy Night was a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with Westminster students. They worked with families to share authentic reading and writing strategies. Meaningful involvement and support between families and schools are extremely powerful and valuable components in children’s literacy development.”

Working directly with students and their families gave preservice teachers valuable hands-on experience, skills and confidence necessary for the classroom.

“This event provided children strategies and methods as to how they can better their reading and language skills. As a preservice teacher, Family Literacy Night enhanced my growing understanding of what it takes to guide students into reaching the goals required in an early education setting while providing real, on-the-job experience,” said Jon Gerace, a senior from Salem, Ohio.

Marissa Stenglein, a senior from Pittsburgh, agreed.

“Family Literacy Night was an excellent way for me to get unique experience in directly working with families,” Stenglein said. “It served to help the elementary students, their families and future teachers work together and learn from each other.”

The event was held in partnership with Wilmington Elementary Principal George Endrizzi M’04, Wilmington Title 1 teachers Hogg, Jeanne Carr, Jackie Sheen and Sara Telesz and Westminster College School of Education professors Dr. Charlene Klassen-Endrizzi and Diana Reed.