Sitting in his seat at the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District’s Performing Arts Center and happily singing along to a catchy tune, pre-kindergarten student Joaquin Gonzalez hardly realizes that he’s learning the fundamentals of rhyming at the same time.
Gonzalez was one of hundreds of pre-k and kindergarten students, along with their families, that joined in on the singing during the district’s first Early Literacy Night on Oct. 16. The goal of the event was to allow students and their families to have fun while learning about the importance of reading and the early development of skills that lead to reading proficiency, said Coordinator for Library Services Mireya Galvan.
Parents enjoyed the evening while witnessing their child’s eyes light up with the fun games and activities related to reading. Students who attended were also given a book so they could continue their fun with reading at home.
“I know reading is important when it comes to how he will do in school now and in the future,” said Nancy Gonzalez, mother of Joaquin Gonzalez. “To see him have fun with reading this early is amazing and as a parent I hope that as he grows so will his love for reading. He will be better off for it.”
The event is only one of a series of initiatives and programs the district has recently launched to not only encourage students to read, but to promote overall academic achievement through early childhood literacy, said HCISD Early Childhood Specialist Carmen Alvarez. Initiatives are targeted toward grades pre-k through fifth grade.
“College readiness begins with early childhood literacy,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “By giving students a solid foundation in reading, you place them on the path toward success in elementary, secondary and higher education. This can only happen by working with our entire district to make it a focal point for our early grade students and working together to ensure reading fluency by third grade. We are fortunate to have Board of Trustees that believe and support this mission, and I am confident we will continue to see advancement at HCISD.”
Further bringing the initiative into the day-to-day classroom activities is one of the keys in helping students develop the vocabulary needed for reading success, said Alvarez. This year, kindergarten through fifth grade teachers were given a list of non-negotiable vocabulary words that their students will be able to use and understand by the end of the year.
“Reading is the foundation of much of what our students will be doing in our classrooms and in life,” said Alvarez. “We are setting high expectations for our students to surpass the word counts set by the state.”
By creating this unified list, it allows all students to leave the school year at the same word level regardless of the campus he or she attends. Already seeing positive results almost halfway through the school year, Nancy has seen an increase in her son’s vocabulary.
“He’s using longer sentences to express himself,” said Nancy. “ As a parent, it helps us communicate better at home. I can only imagine him at the end of the year.”
Seeing teachers as the gatekeepers to information, much of the professional development that has taken place this year for reading has been focused on the method of delivery. Before the school year started, teachers were presented with tools on how to further comprehension and develop classroom activities that all tie back to literacy.
Early childhood literacy is a team effort at HCISD. Campus and district administrators have also offered a helping hand by taking time to mentor second grade students twice a month. Lasting until the end of the year, the goal is introduce new reading activities each visit while encouraging students to practice the skills needed for reading comprehension.
At the end of the year, students will be given a book to remember the year by and use as they continue on to the next grade level.
Focusing on literacy is nothing new for HCISD. This summer the district hosted its Summer Reading Program, which was kicked off with the introduction of the district’s book mobile. The mobile library toured elementary campuses and distributed books, for all grade levels, to students. Activities including story time, literacy related projects and themed lessons would also be available to students. This summer will follow suit, as there are currently plans to expand the program and its offerings to students.
To view photos of the event, click here.