Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Open Books, Open Hearts - A Read-Aloud Program

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

Open Books, Open Hearts - A Read-Aloud Program

Article excerpt

This is a story of a partnership. One partner is Payne Elementary School, an inner-city public school in Washington, D.C. The other partner is Grace Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Virginia, an affluent Washington suburb. And the silent partner providing funding in 2003-04 is The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

The program that these partners take part in is called "Open Books, Open Hearts." Its goal is to stimulate children to learn the joy of reading by listening to stories being read aloud in small-group settings. Volunteer members of Grace Presbyterian Church read to first-and second-graders at Payne Elementary School twice a month. Each reading session lasts about forty-five minutes and includes reading aloud, discussion, an activity, and a snack. On "give-away" dates, each student is given a copy of one of the books to keep for his or her own personal library. In 2003-04, sixty-five students will each receive seven books. For many of these students, these are the only books that they own.

The theme for the 2003-04 school year read-aloud program is "Journey Around the World." Students who participate are given a "passport" that they will use as they travel around the world. Beginning in Washington, the students use a map to find their first destination - Botswana. The journey is truly around the world, as the books chosen for the program feature stories and destinations in Africa, the Middle East, Antarctica, Japan and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, South America, and Europe.

Payne Elementary School is located in southeast Washington, D.C. Only a few miles from the U.S. Capitol, the neighborhood is one of the poorest sections of the District, with more than 90 percent of the students attending Payne living at or below the poverty level. A member of Grace Presbyterian Church grew up in this neighborhood and suggested that Grace assist the school near his former home. Thus, the Payne/Grace Partnership was formed. The school's principal specifically requested thnt Grace establish a read-aloud program at Payne.

Numerous studies demonstrate that reading aloud to children at an early age helps them develop and improve literacy skills - reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A 1983 Department of Education study concluded: "The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading, is reading aloud to children." Reading aloud is a "commercial" for reading, according to Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook. …

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