The"Smart Start" program featured the StoryBus at Washington school on Dec. 10.

School District 65 held a “Smart Start” family literacy event, featuring the StoryBus, at Washington School from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 10. About 30 families from Washington, Dawes and Bessie Rhodes schools braved the almost-zero temperature to attend the event, based on the theme “The Three Little Pigs.”

District 65 launched the Smart Start program in April 2010. The goal is to help parents learn how they help their children to develop literacy skills at home through fun and engaging activities, Samantha Richardson, coordinator for Smart Start, told the RoundTable.

The program began with families who had 4-year-olds in the District’s pre-K programs, and has since expanded to include students in pre-K through third grade. Approximately 350 students are currently enrolled in the program, said Ms. Richardson.

Families in the program commit to talk to their child about school every day, to read to their child every day and to collect examples of student learning at home – sort of a portfolio that will capture their child’s learning experiences. Families are also asked to participate each year in three hands-on events or workshops that are designed to teach them fun ways to help their children expand their literacy skills. The events also provide an opportunity for parents to connect with reading teachers and school social workers, Ms. Richardson said.

The event at Washington School had three stations, each of which provided ways for kids to connect with literacy. One station had letters spread out on a table, and kids were challenged to use the letters to make words with “ick” or “ig” or “in” in them. At another station, students were asked to predict which of several items weighed the most and which weighed the least, and to say why they thought so.

A StoryBus from America’s Children’s Museum on Wheels was available in the parking lot for children and parents to visit. The inside of the bus was set up around the theme of The Three Little Pigs. Usually there would be 10 minutes of storytelling and 20 minutes of play on the bus, said Ginger Leopoldo, program director for StoryBus, but since storytelling took place in the school’s gym, the bus was used for playtime.

Ms. Leopoldo provided parents with a list of activity suggestions for young children based on the tales “The Three Little Pigs” and “The Little Red Hen.”

Similar events featuring the StoryBus will be scheduled at several other District 65 schools after the New Year.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...