Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- As the Beacon Hill Primary Center first graders entered “The Village of Dancing Fire” their eyes were drawn to the lone teepee that stood before them and the small campfire flickering beside the teepee. With a little make believe, the staff at the Park Forest Library had transformed a meeting room into a Native American village and piqued the children’s interest in what was about to happen: District 163-Park Forest Library Reading Express was about to immerse the students in Native American Heritage Month through books, a brief history lesson and a craft activity that centered on the Native American culture.
Reading Express is a partnership between the School District and the Park Forest Library that provides the children with greater access to the library’s resources and promotes literacy. The District’s primary grade students visit the library each month and the intermediate students come each quarter. On these field trips, the students check out a book to keep for one month and participate in thematic units that involve a book reading, vocabulary lesson and an activity that highlights the month’s theme. In addition to Native American Heritage Month, the units include sunflowers, harvest, holidays, winter/penguins, Chinese New Year, Dr. Seuss, civil rights, and Space Month.
“The students love the program and I am very pleased with it,” said Beacon Hill first grade teacher Patti Hatzis. “They are able to hear a story, learn a new vocabulary word and create something that relates to the library visit. We use the vocabulary word throughout the month so that the children practice it. The program is very enriching and the children soak up all that is presented to them.”
Miranda Bell, the library’s community engagement assistant, developed the Reading Express modules and wrote the programs. She said the initiative is a cross-departmental effort that would not be successful without everyone’s willing participation. Ms. Bell notes that the Reading Express is a model program that few other school districts and public libraries are offering.
“I attended a national library conference recently and the people in attendance were anxious to hear about our Reading Express program because they did not know of anything like it in their areas,” said Ms. Bell. “The program is connected to the District 163 curriculum and is aligned with the Common Core Standards. I have developed units that will support students’ reading skills and increase their enjoyment of reading.”
During the Beacon Hill students’ visit, an assistant librarian read “The Rough Face Girl,” a story about Native Americans that is a variation of the Cinderella theme. Ms. Bell then discussed the story with the children and how it paralleled the Cinderella story they knew. She also shared some Native American history with the students that she found by accessing the library’s data base and told the students how they could also do this. After learning and pronouncing some Native American words, learning the word of the month (sagacious) and making a craft, the students checked out library books and boarded the buses that took them back to Beacon Hill Primary Center. While gathering his things and showing off the book he checked out, Malachi Amos proclaimed, “I like to come to the library because we get to read.”