Every fourth Tuesday of the month, kids and parents pack the cafeteria at Craig Elementary School for story time.
Each parent and child — some in strollers — receive a packaged cinnamon roll, a juice box, a raffle ticket and a book of their choosing. The lights dim in the cafeteria, and the program begins while everyone eats.
Last month’s story, “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn, is about Chester Raccoon, who does not want to leave his mother and go to school.
It is short and simple, but storyteller Libbi Erickson reads it with enthusiasm and engages students by asking questions. Erickson, a facilitator for Spread the Word Nevada’s Breakfast With Books program, said she hopes parents pick up on that.
“The point is really to help the parents help their kids to become better readers,” Erickson said. “When (parents) come here, they’re saying to their kids, ‘I think reading is important.’ If nothing else, it’s effective in that way.”
Spread the Word Nevada is a nonprofit group that promotes literacy through book donations at 27 low-income schools. It started in 2001 and added Breakfast with Books in 2004.
The program was started to encourage at-home reading between parents and their children, said executive director Lisa Habighorst.
“A lot of parents don’t know how to read to their kids effectively,” Habighorst said. “We wanted to show them how to read, ask questions and use these resources as a whole family.”
One thing she and others did not anticipate, Habighorst said, is that many of the parents would be illiterate themselves, and the kids would be the ones reading to parents.
“It really does affect the whole family,” Habighorst said. “We never realized that when we started. It wasn’t the goal or anything, but this is where we’ve come to.
“Kids may pick out books below their grade level because they’re teaching mom to read English,” she said.
Along with Craig, 2637 E. Gowan Road, other elementary schools in North Las Vegas that have been “adopted” by Spread the Word Nevada include Herron, Lincoln, Squires and the 100 Academy of Excellence.
Spread the Word Nevada adopts only at-risk schools with at least 80 percent of students on the free and reduced lunch program. More than 30 additional qualified schools have asked to be adopted, but they can be added only as funding becomes available.
It is a well-received program, too, Erickson said. She has seen more than 300 parents and kids attend some of the events.
“I’m humbled that in the middle of the winter, they will push their kids in a stroller to come out and be a part of my program,” Erickson said. “It shows that everyone cares about their kids and literacy. They don’t always have the tools and resources to make it happen, and that’s why we’re here.”
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 224-5524.