Reading Reindeer, the literacy project of the West Orange Times, has been delivering new books to preschoolers in the Migrant Early Intervention Program of Orange County Public Schools since its inception in 1998.
Encouraging parents and children to work together is an early learning emphasis of Migrant Education.
OCPS tutors with the Early Intervention program make weekly visits to the homes of migrant preschool students to work with them on reading and writing skills. This 60-minute, home-based service for preschoolers up to 4 years old is designed to prepare them for kindergarten.
“Each week the tutors bring the children a new book to enrich the literacy in the home and encourage the parents to become involved in learning,” said Dr. Debra Allen, a recently retired OCPS senior administrator for Migrant Education.
One of Reading Reindeer’s goals has been to increase the number of books children have available in their own homes. OCPS educators tell us they have seen the gradual development of home libraries for the children they visit.
“In the summer, when we have extra dollars, we replenish the home libraries by adding new books,” said Allen.
In August, the Bloom ‘N’ Grow Garden Society donated 92 new books to Reading Reindeer for this home library project and joined the OCPS tutors in delivering them to 36 local families.
In addition, the OCPS Migrant Education Program plans monthly family workshops at the Community Room of the West Oaks Mall as continuing reinforcement of parent-child interaction. The evening usually starts with pizza, and then the entire group, sometimes 75 or more, divides into play areas for interactive games and other activities.
Typically, parents and children work side-by-side building tall skyscrapers out of colored blocks, solving puzzles, designing bridges and playing games to learn shapes, colors and numbers. According to literacy experts, these types of activities help parents realize their importance as their children’s first and most important teachers. Improving parent-child interaction is one way to improve literacy skills overall.
OCPS Migrant Education also offers a program for mothers with infants and toddlers to improve parent strategies to motivate learning with their children, to engage them in learning activities and to encourage them to read to their children both in their native language and in English.
For school-age children, Migrant Education has a school-based advocacy program at selected sites. At each location, OCPS advocates work with migrant families to help parents get the right kind of services for their children and serve as personal advocates on each child’s behalf.
The West Orange Times is looking for your help so Reading Reindeer can provide these books again this year. Through a long-standing partnership with the Adult Literacy League, each book given out also includes a family literacy brochure explaining to parents the importance of reading to children, even the youngest infants.
Reading Reindeer is collecting new books, only, and any title suitable for a child from infancy through middle school is acceptable. Cash donations to purchase books are also welcomed, and checks made payable to Reading Reindeer can be sent to the Times’ office at 720 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden, Florida 34787.
Volunteers and students who need community service hours will be needed in the coming weeks to label, sort and distribute the books.
For more information, book drop-off locations and a donation coupon, see the Reading Reindeer ad on page 8A or call Kathy at (407) 929-2676.