Story time unfolds to realm beyond booksCollege students in speech-language courses grabbed the opportunity to start a program in which they read with kids inside the haven of Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
College students in speech-language courses grabbed the opportunity to start a program in which they read with kids inside the haven of Turningpoint for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The group of 14 graduate and seven undergraduate students take turns going in groups, twice a month, and hold ‘story time’ with the children.
Turningpoint’s Children’s Services Coordinator, Jennifer Rhead, and Sharyl Samargia, assistant professor at UW-River Falls in the department of Communicative Disorders, agree that both groups enjoy and look forward to the two-hour sessions.
They’re amazed at the students’ initiative and think the concept holds promising potential for growth and benefit.
Samargia said students in her class are usually studying for a career in speech-language pathology, in some cases audiology. She’s been at UWRF for nine years, and Rhead has worked at Turningpoint for two years.
The instructor said a group-think session on how to help children read plus a mutual friend of hers and Rhead’s both helped story time become reality.
“It started as a book drive at Dick’s grocery store,” said Rhead, adding that the group collected nearly 400 books in four hours.
Samargia said those books, and a steady flow of them from the United Way, helped start a library at Turningpoint.
She thinks it’s great to have enough to give the kids. They can keep the books they really like and start a personal library.
She said graduate students and undergraduate students work in teams for story-time sessions. Rhead says having regular story time is a great benefit for the kids.
She tells the students the number and ages of kids with whom they’ll work with that week. She also tells parents about when the students will come.
“They plan everything,” said Samargia about the students.
The groups read anywhere from 3-5 books a night then do a related activity. One week they made snowflakes, leading to talk about how each one is unique.
The kids also became very excited to make their own large books -- some wanting to do words, and others the pictures. Sometimes the kids read to the storytellers, and often the group asks questions about the story or retells it in another way.
Rhead said about the children, “They look forward to it.”
She says the children always want to show her whatever they made during story time. Many of them have experienced chaotic and/or negative circumstances, and it is a positive for them to know the students are coming.
Samargia clarifies that the students do not evaluate or assess the children during story time -- they simply read, listen, have fun and give them a positive experience to associate with literacy and communication.
Rhead and Samargia agree that the concept seems to be working even better because there is no pressure for the students or kids to worry about scientific evaluations or diagnoses -- it’s just reading practice.
Samargia smiles about the students already saying they want to visit Turningpoint more often. She said the story-time concept was planned for one semester as a trial.
“I definitely see it growing,” she adds.
Rhead agrees the new concept has been well received by staff at Turningpoint, as well as the children and parents.
She thinks wistfully about the ones who leave that literacy support, but says at least they can take books and memories with them.
Anne Branstad is a graduate student bound to be a speech pathologist but who used to be a 1st- and 4th-grade teacher in Apple Valley, Minn.
She’s visited Turningpoint and agrees it’s a multi-faceted opportunity.
“The opportunity to be exposed to books and reading is huge,” she said, “especially at a young age.”
She said the sessions go beyond the act of reading. It’s analyzing the words that make a story, realizing its different characters, focusing on rhymes or shapes or colors.
Kids make connections and identify with the different characters from the books. They become familiar with different emotions and increase their vocabulary.
“It enables them to see that reading can be fun,” she said.
Chloe Gulich: “The Turningpoint Literacy Night was very fun and reminded all of us of the goal we are all striving for.”
Erica Buck: “Promoting literacy with the children at Turningpoint was the highlight of my month. The two little girls were fascinated by the stories we read. The tween-age boy read “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” on the couch, chuckling to himself. The whole scene was just bubbling with learning and fun!”
Jill Brandenburg: “Books bring words and pictures to life! The children cut out and decorated paper mittens that represented each necessary letter to help them sound out and correctly spell the word “mittens.” We hope the children recognized our love for reading and will be inspired to explore through books in the future.”
Kari Recke: “Being a part of the literacy group was an amazing experience and opportunity. It was so much fun to be a part of this group and explore the books with the children. They were so excited with every turn of the page and their enthusiasm and excitement about the different stories put a smile on my face.”
Linda Warner: “This experience has been so rewarding because we are giving these children and adolescents something so easy to give -- attention and knowledge. Books are such a wonderful way for children to escape into a world of silliness, happiness, make-believe, and hope for the future. I believe this is exactly what the children at Turningpoint need to propel them forward and help them recover from some of the turmoil they have experienced in their lives.”