ACE program gets families ‘in the mood for the holidays’

In the spirit of the holiday season, the Afterschool Centers on Education program hosted Hurray for the Holidays, a series of reading and interactive activities to get the whole family involved.

The bilingual holiday sessions kicked off with an activity that demonstrated how to overcome excuses for not reading.

“Parents were asked to think of reasons that kept them from reading to their children or even just telling them stories,” Stuart Place Library Media Specialist Julissa Gomez said. “They wrote those excuses on an inflated balloon. Then they popped their balloons, in turn popping their excuses.”

The goal of these classes and activities is to engage families while encouraging them to read or tell stories at home.

“I know life is busy,” Jefferson Elementary Library Media Specialist Cynthia Vega said. “Our days are long, but our years are short. Remember, one day our children will grow up and leave the nest. Let’s create those happy memories and ‘pop’ the excuses away.”

The Library Media Specialists leading the sessions shared personal stories about the impact of reading and storytelling at home.

“I shared how I read the book, ‘The Night Before Christmas’ to my family and the significance the story now has to my son and me,” Gomez said. “I read this book to him every night before Christmas, making a lasting memory.”

The second presenter shared her childhood experience with storytelling.

“Growing up in Mexico, my parents couldn’t afford to buy me books,” Vega said. “That didn’t stop my dad from telling me stories every night at bedtime.  He would always end the story with: ‘Colorín colorado, este cuento se ha terminado.’ The English equivalent is something like ‘The end,’ or ‘They lived happily ever after.’ I still treasure those memories and stories my dad told me. Now, I get to share the impact they had on me with other families.”

Both elementary and middle school ACE students and their families took part in the holiday activities.

“It puts you in the mood for the holidays,” Vela Middle School ACE parent Anna Sepeda said. “This is kind of taking me back to when my kids were little, and we were very involved. Last night they sat us down, they had us together. I felt included. It was so wonderful.”

 Other activities that took place during these sessions included stirring up some North Pole Soup which consisted of hot chocolate, marshmallows, and candy canes, crafting a Luminaria Christmas Tree, and making Gingerbread slime.

“Yesterday we read ‘The Polar Express’ and we made hot chocolate, and I really enjoyed that because you got it in English and Spanish,” said Emily Castellanos, Vernon Middle School World Languages Academy 7th-grader. “I actually do spend a lot of time with my mom, but since I joined ACE, we started doing more stuff together.”

Many families logged in to enjoy the daily read-out-loud stories and activities throughout the week.

“It brings me great joy to see families taking time from their busy schedules to participate in our ACE family engagement events,” ACE Project Director Jesus Saldivar said.

The ACE after school program continues to work on new sessions to keep families active and engaged.

 “I think ACE is fun,” Long Elementary 4th-grader Mia Martinez said. “You can do cool and nice activities that help you learn.”

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