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Ellsworth Elementary School Family Reading Bags are a hit

ELLSWORTH – The Ellsworth Elementary School Literacy Team has developed Family Reading Bags to help promote reading at home and to engage families in their children’s education. According to District Literacy Specialist Karen Thoen, they are already popular with students.

“The Family Reading Bags are a pretty simple idea,” Thoen said. “But are already proving to be popular with EES families. In the first week that the bags were available, 12 of the 20 bags were out with families.”

Bags for K-2 and 3-5 can be found right inside the EES main entrance. They are available during regular school hours for pick-up, with no check-out or reservations needed on a first-come first-served basis.

Thoen said the EES Literacy Team, which is composed of EES teachers who volunteer their time to promote reading through a wide range of activities, hatched the idea for the bags.

“In identifying initiatives for the 2021-2022 school year, the team decided to focus on reading motivation and family engagement,” Thoen said. “This led to a brainstorming session on specific activities that would connect to our initiatives, and the Family Reading Bags was one of those projects.”

Three Literacy Team members assembles the bags: First grade teacher Pam Fedie, interventionist Jill Rosenberry and literacy specialist Karen Thoen. The bags are filled with a wide variety of books, including fiction and non-fiction, picture books, chapter books and books children may read on their own or some that may need to be read to them. Other fun literacyrelated activities can be found in the bags, such as word games or writing and drawing prompts. For the adults, information about reading’s importance and tips for reading with children are inside as well.

Superintendent Barry Cain described the bags as “really neat kits” that the district is hoping to promote and support as much as possible. Families have been made aware of the bags through emails and monthly newsletters.

“Our goal is to provide a simple way for families to add variety to their at-home reading experience,” Thoen said. “Having easy access to books is an important factor in increasing reading motivation and volume of reading. It’s also a great way to allow students to try different types of books that they may not normally check out on their own.”

Family Engagement Team members Nancy Huntley and Melinda Casper added that one of the primary goals in engaging families in the educational life of their child is to encourage a broader and deeper relationship between home and school.

“As a district, we understand the importance of meaningful relationships with all families, and we are actively working toward strengthening those relationships,” they said in an email. “When we initiate and engage in practices like the literacy bag activity, we invite families to connect to the school community, and we empower families to be active partners in their child’s education.”

If you’re unable to pick a bag up during regular school hours, email Thoen at [email protected] to make other arrangements.

Ellsworth Elementary School families can now bring home Family Reading Bags, which are chock full of a variety of books and literacy activities for children to do on their own or with their families. Photos courtesy of Karen Thoen

Reading for just 20 minutes per day can significantly help students improve their literacy skills, open up new and exciting worlds and ideas and allow them to broaden their vocabulary.

Graphic courtesy of EES newsletter

December 14, 2021