"Our Dr. Seuss Literacy Night is a lot of fun, and we have so many activities that it's hard to say what the students like best," reports Assistant Principal Loren Clark. "Being able to come in your pajamas, hang out with classmates, and meet Dr. Seuss, the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1 and Thing 2, the Grinch, and even Mother Goose, is a party in itself."
The evening event at Hill Field Elementary School in Clearfield, Utah, features Principal Paul Bryner as Dr. Seuss and members of the staff as his popular characters. It also includes face painting, reading with parents and family, free books, reader's theater readings, poetry, and music. Teachers, staff, volunteers, and parents operate numerous literacy-centered game booths. The children and their families play the games, participate in a "make and take" game activity for home, and answer trivia questions about popular children's literature. Refreshments are provided, too.
"Now, if I were a kid, I think I'd say all of the above are my favorites," admits Clark.
Events like Dr. Seuss Literacy Night are essential to the community spirit of Hill Field. The school is adjacent to Hill Air Force Base, and many of its families face the challenge of being transferred to a new location every 2-4 years. As a result, the school has the highest amount of turnover in the Davis School District -- 40 to 50 percent each year. While many students live in households with two working parents, those at Hill Field often have parents who have been deployed.
"We are not a typical neighborhood school, and some families are not used to making long-term commitments to the school," Clark told Education World. "Our PTA board and community council, a site-based school/community decision-making team, are usually not fully staffed. But when we have school events or are in need of volunteers, the families really show up. We have a smaller PTA team that does a wonderful job at running school fund-raisers, family events, and in finding numerous volunteers for days like our field day. They are just as successful in fund-raising and getting out volunteers as larger parent-teacher organizations in other schools."
A highlight of the most recent literacy night was the addition of a book exchange. Families brought in used books in good condition leading up to the event and received coupons that could be traded for different books on this evening. Volunteers organized the books by reading level prior to the exchange.
"It was wonderful to see the children bring in several books that they had at home to exchange, browsing through the various titles and selecting books of interest with their parents' guidance," said Clark. "The fact that everyone also has a huge grin on his face tells the whole story."
Clark's assignment is to play the Cat in the Hat for the evening. It's fun, he says, but he sometimes meows for the opportunity to be "himself"!
The ideas for articles in this Partners for Student Success series come from annual collections of Promising Partnership Practices by the National Network of Partnership Schools. Established by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, NNPS is dedicated to bringing together schools, districts, and states that are committed to developing and maintaining comprehensive programs of school-family-community partnerships.
"Based on more than a decade of research and the work of many educators, parents, students, and others, we know that it is possible for all elementary, middle, and high schools to develop and maintain strong programs of partnership," NNPS director Joyce L. Epstein told Education World.
NNPS provides a wide range of resources to help schools and school districts build strong partnerships.