MMSD’s Read Out Loud Initiative
Reading Is a Family Thing
By Hedi Rudd

Creating opportunities for families and children to bridge the school-to-home divide is
one of the things the Madison Metropolitan School District’s, Family, Youth and
Community Engagement Department was created to do. And this year, “Read Out Loud”
was created to accomplish just that. The event was held on two days, on Madison’s
north and south sides. In February, families came together at Warner Park Community
Recreation Center and at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center in March. The formats
were the same, but the experiences were as diverse as the families in attendance at
each event.

The focus of Read Out Loud is to strengthen the reading skills of kindergarten to 2nd
grade students by including their parents as a partner with schools in improving
literacy. The event itself was a day of storytelling, drumming and dance, which helped
families to increase their appetite for not only the delicious lunch served, but also the
special time dedicated to reading.

Families were greeted by literacy staff and provided a “Reading Kit”, which they
unpacked together. The kits included books, tile letters, an alphabet chart, bookmarks,
a packet of literacy activities and sheets that parents could refer to at home.

The first activity at each event was to focus on oral language. The reason is that
language has a purpose, it is universal, makes learning possible and develops as
young people strengthen their skills. They also spent time with the family sharing the
Concept of Print, it’s meaning and purposes and how simply seeing adults and other
family members holding books, was powerful. Finally they practiced reading out loud.
To reinforce what they learned during their time with literacy staff, families engaged in
activities that supported the concepts.

At Badger Rock, “Community Drummer” Elmore Lawson, lead families through an
interactive drumming experience. Drums, shakers, and clapping were all used to unite
the group in a circle of sound and rhythm. Omula Capoeira Madison shared the history
of Capoeira and demonstrated a few moves, before inviting families to participate in
drumming and movement. This took place after a nice lunch and was a welcome way
to push back the desire to nap after the filling soul food, pizza and snacks.
The highlight of the event, was watching families put the knowledge shared at the event to work. Small groups provided the opportunity for volunteers to read to
children and for their parents to also take part. Taking the diversity of the families into consideration, there were also groups for Hmong and Spanish-speaking
families. In a separate room, children could read to one of three dogs, which was well received by youngsters who may be self-conscious or prefer a furry friend.

The district plans to continue partnering with the community to strengthen literacy and to create more opportunities to Read Out Loud. We certainly encourage
families to use this issue of the Capital City Hues to continue the movement!