Storytelling Stressed in Literacy Program

Importance of storytelling stressed in literacy program ; Kids, parents learn together at McDonald’s event

Mandy Zatynski , The Desert Sun , November 23, 2006

Parents don’t need a book to teach their children to read or learn the English language.

They only need the time, patience and willingness to talk to their children – about anything.

That’s the message Linda Arias, a certified trainer for the National Center for Family Literacy, hopes to send through weekly McDonald’s Mealtime Literacy Nights.

“The whole part of this is learning literacy is fun,” Arias said.

She is one of the trainers who coordinates McDonald’s pilot program in Palm Springs, the only one of six locations in Riverside County . The others are dispersed throughout Southern California .

The McDonald’s Operators Association of Southern California decided to team up with the National Center for Family Literacy after the center’s 2005 study showed that four out of five third-graders in California read below their grade level.

The study also reported that 26 percent of children live in households with guardians who did not graduate from high school.

At Tuesday night’s session, Arias encouraged parents to tell stories of every kind – about their own childhood, their family and their child as a baby.

“There’s fun ways to tell stories to your family,” she said. A Spanish interpreter followed her lecture and instructions, as most of the participating families are Spanish-speaking.

Parents then practiced storytelling with their children.

“Do you know something that’s funny about you?” Martha Escobar asked her son and nephew.

“Since you were born, you’ve never stopped fighting,” she said, and the boys laughed.

Escobar, who brings her two sons, a nephew and niece, said the sessions have inspired her to do more at home.

” Sometimes at home… you don’t take the time to do something so simple. Seeing their faces – how they have enjoyed it – gets me going to make a little more time at home,” she said.

Palm Springs Unified School District parents involved in the Even Start Program, a federal program for low-income families, have been invited to the 90-minute sessions for five weeks.

At each session, Arias reads books with the families, provides books and instructions for activities to do at home and teaches them how to make literacy a daily part of their lives – simply by reading street signs as they drive by or counting money in a grocery checkout line.

The sessions took place at McDonald’s, 1717 Vista Chino in Palm Springs.

Tuesday’s session was the last, but McDonald’s plans to expand the program in early 2007.

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