For literacy professor Katie Schrodt, promoting literacy extends beyond her classroom of future educators at MTSU’s College of Education.
“As literacy educators working in a teacher education program, one of our jobs is to promote literacy in our community by hosting family and community literacy events,” Schrodt said. “Along with our teacher education students, we help children gain access to books and reading resources that they may not have outside of the classroom.”
The college partners with local school districts Rutherford County Schools, Murfreesboro City Schools and Maury County Schools to host around 15 literacy, math and combined literacy and math events a year. Education faculty and students fundraise and work with the nonprofit Read to Succeed to provide attending families with reading and math games and activities, snacks or dinner, take-home educational materials and free books.
At the most recent event at John Pittard Elementary in Murfreesboro, over 100 families, around 275 children and their parents, showed up to take part.
“The benefits of participating in family literacy programs and events are numerous, including improving comprehension, increasing vocabulary and improving foundational reading and writing skills,” Schrodt said. “Our event surveys indicate children were very excited about their books and opportunities to read and play with their parents, and parents said the events encouraged them to connect with their children through books.”
Other education faculty involved in organizing these events include Natalie Griffin, Bonnie Barksdale, Stacy Fields, Joan Boulware and Jeremy Winters. Faculty even landed a publication about their outreach work in a journal chartered by the International Literacy Association at https://tinyurl.com/yv8hf3c8.
Victoria Stroble, a junior pursuing her degree in Early Childhood Education, first got involved in literacy nights last year and looks forward to participating in more.
“I will never forget these literacy nights!” said the Murfreesboro native. “Not only do they help me to become a better student, but they allow me to interact with all different types of learners and educators … and work with and instruct families and students … using the chosen book and activities we brainstormed and created in our literacy class.”
‘Vital for a student’s growth’
Looking to the future, Schrodt said they recently applied for a grant to expand the program.
“It would allow us to have specialized nights that include focus on science content, family heritage and even strategies for struggling readers,” she said.
Jeremy Winters, math education professor, organizes the math side of the events and said the college put on its first combined literacy and math event last year.
“Each (education) student designs a math station that is either a math game or math activity,” Winters explained about his 46 students who participated this year. “This hands-on experience allows future teachers the opportunity to work with many students to see how different people learn, to be creative in the design of their activity around a math standard and to practice scaffolding questions during the event.”
Winters said these events also help showcase math in a fun and engaging way.
“Parents get the opportunity to learn games that can be played at home as well as see firsthand their child’s understanding of math,” he said. “We have even heard parents say they have learned things during the night mathematically.”
Blake Hastings, a senior also pursuing an early childhood degree, said the events have highlighted the importance of family and teacher interaction.
“It’s vital for a student’s growth and learning development for there to be a strong interaction and relationship between their family and their teacher and school,” said Hastings, originally from Nashville. “The best lessons are learned through experience and practice, so these types of events are my favorite because they’re hands on. I always learn something, and I’m always reminded of my ‘why.’”
To learn more about the opportunities at MTSU’s College of Education, visit the website at www.mtsu.edu/education.
— Stephanie Wagner (Stephanie.Wagner@mtsu.edu)
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