program review: family literacy day 2013

In our town, Family Literacy Day was done in partnership with a bunch of the local literacy groups, and of course the library was a part of it. Because Family Literacy Day itself is on January 27, which is a Sunday and many venues would be closed, events were spread out over the full week. There was in-school reading and a gym day, and this weekend there’ll be events at the museum and art gallery.

The library’s event was on Thursday. This was my first big-L Literacy event I’d planned and integrating into the plans of all these literacy advocates and educators with way more experience than me was a little intimidating. Part of the challenge was figuring out my target audience. Family Literacy Day is about promoting this 15 Minutes of Fun to share learning with everyone in the family. It goes beyond the staples of just reading to playing board games and cooking and math and all of that stuff that literacy helps with integrating into people’s lives.

Our theme was about discovering the community, and very early on I knew I wanted the event to be like a very basic “make your own comic” workshop. I am a huge fan of the connection between pictures and words that comics represent and getting that into an early literacy program might make comics a more palatable choice for parents who don’t like them in the future.

So I planned a comics for kids kind of event. But a few weeks ago I realized my error. The library’s event was going to be at 2:30pm, so I was not going to be getting the 6-10 year-olds and their parents that my program was aimed at, since they’d be at school. So I rejigged the whole thing to focus more on preschoolers, which meant we did some stories about communities and the comics-making got downgraded to drawing pictures about themselves. The idea was that “I couldn’t find any stories about our town, so can you draw some for me?”

To be honest, I probably should have dropped the “comics-making” part of the event and shifted to a more crafty kind of craft. The “three pictures makes a story” was still over the heads of the preschoolers who attended. There was one older girl who was there for a while, who would have been perfect for the original older-kids comickery focus, but the people who did show up were better off with our picturebooks and drawing.

The best books we ended up doing were:

  • A Good Night Walk by Elisha Cooper, which worked very well for getting the kids to be observant about details (and let us model some of those good critical reading behaviours matching up words and pictures)
  • Dinosaur Woods by George McClements, which was about how the people/animals living in a place are what make it special (not necessarily giant robotic dinosaurs)

I’m not sure it was the best Family Literacy Day event ever, but it was my first and no one went out to find pitchforks and torches to equip a mob and storm my castle, so I consider it a modest success.

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