Bonnie Barksdale, assistant education professor, is one of several faculty facilitating Literacy Night events that provide hands-on experience for College of Education students with local public-school children and the community.
“It is the experiential learning part of the READ 4015 course,” Barksdale said. “The COE provides this opportunity through coursework.”
In partnership with local school districts — most often Rutherford County Schools — and local nonprofit Read to Succeed, Literacy Nights take place at local schools and bring together elementary school students, families and MTSU students for a complimentary meal and books provided by Read to Succeed.
“There are (also) multiple activities themed to the texts being offered for families to engage in,” Barksdale said.
Katie Schrodt, Natalie Griffin, Janna McClain, Joan Boulware and Stacy Fields round out the other education faculty involved with the events. Barksdale has personally facilitated three nights since joining MTSU in 2019, and the college has put on so many total events during her tenure that she has lost count.
“One of my colleagues just scheduled a middle school literacy event for next spring,” Barksdale added. “It’s very exciting to branch out to the secondary schools.”
Faculty and students had to get creative to continue the popular events while adhering to coronavirus restrictions, rebranding the nights as “Literacy Lanes” with more of them planned for the future.
“It is all drive-thru, the meals and the text pickup” Barksdale explained. “MTSU students would (also) create literacy and STEM activities that paired with the text for students to take home.”
Around 70 families attended the most recent event at Walter Hill Elementary School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with 11 MTSU students participating.
“The role of MTSU students is (still) to actively engage with parents and students as best they can through car windows, wearing masks and offering choices of books to students by grade level,” Barksdale said. “They get really involved talking with the younger students about their reading interests, their favorite characters…. We’ve witnessed an increased love of learning and books! Plus, MTSU students gain confidence in working with students and families.”
Graduate education student Sara Daily has participated in two literacy events since beginning her COE program in fall 2020.
“It is nice knowing that students are still excited about physical books during this technological age,” Daily said.
Planning to become an elementary teacher herself after graduation, Daily said the events are important because they give children access to free reading material that they can keep forever.
“They also offer interactive options for children and their families to get involved with the story,” she said. “These events show families and schools that the community cares that students are reading.”
Daily wants to continue being part of these types of events.
“I hope that I’m able to participate in a similar event at my own school in the future,” she said.
— Stephanie Barrette (Stephanie.Barrette@mtsu.edu)