You don’t have to know the words on a page to begin learning the joys of reading. It all starts with adults reading to children, according to educators at Great Bend USD 428. This week, Great Bend celebrated Kansas Reads to Preschoolers Week, with all district preschool students receiving a free book to take home and read with their families.
As part of the celebration, musician Ross McGuire visited the schools Thursday to sing with the students and lead them in musical activities. On Monday, storyteller Gloria Bogan will bring a multicultural story to the children.
Librarians Kristine Boepple and Holly Tittel talked about Kansas Reads to Preschoolers and the upcoming Great Bend Reads Initiative during this week’s board of education meeting.
Every student at the district’s three preschools – Riley, Helping Hands and Little Panthers – received a copy of the book “My Heart Fills with Happiness” in English or Spanish, Boepple said.
“My Heart Fills with Happiness” was originally written in English and Cree. International speaker and award-winning author Monique Gray Smith wrote the book to support the wellness of Indigenous children and families and to encourage young children to reflect on what makes them happy.
Shelly Post, Helping Hands coordinator, said people can search for the book title on YouTube to listen to the whole story online.
When children bring the book home, she hopes family members will read it to them often. “Or better yet, let your child read to you!” she said. Even if they aren’t actually able to read the words, they can look at the pictures and tell the story as it becomes familiar to them.
The committee in charge of the program created several activities that tie in to the pictures and words in the book. Children were invited to a special story time and craft going on from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Great Bend Public Library.
The children are also learning how to take care of books:
• Put it in a safe place - on a bookshelf or dresser or on a high shelf (where little brothers and sisters and pets can’t destroy it)
• No writing or cutting in it
• Read it often – daily, if possible
Great Bend Reads
This week’s initiative comes in advance of Great Bend Reads, which gets underway in January. This year, children in USD 428 elementary schools will be reading “The Wild Robot,” by Peter Brown.
Great Bend Reads also provides students with a free book of their own to keep. The district has received 1,500 copies, to distribute on Jan. 5, 2024, Boepple said. “We’ll pack those in 1,500 bags at our work day in January.” The bags will include a schedule for reading the book and activities.
On alternating years, the books are aimed at younger students (grades K-2), and then older students (grades 3-6), Tittel said. Last year’s book was “Zoey and Sassafras - Dragons and Marshmallows.” Although “The Wild Robot” is for the older students, the district has covered all of the bases this year with the preschool initiative.
This No. 1 New York Times Bestseller tells the tale of robot Roz, who opens her eyes for the first time and discovers she is alone on a remote, wild island. She must learn to survive in her harsh surroundings. Author Brown followed “The Wild Robot” with “The Wild Robot Escapes” and his latest book in the series, “The Wild Robot Protects,” released in September 2023.
Great Bend Reads is sponsored by USD 428 and presented in partnership with the Great Bend Public Library and other groups.
“The library staff are going to be going to every school on Fridays and the K-State Extension Office will be bringing some STEM things,” Tittel said. “The Shafer Art Gallery (at Barton Community College) will be providing a video that we’ll show to the classes and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center will be there visiting each school. We are excited to have the Shafer Gallery and Barton on board; those are new partners. The reading initiative is growing in the community, which is nice.”
The community is also invited to get involved. Businesses can be included in a scavenger hunt by displaying a robot drawing.
The district will use an online resource called Goosechase to create questions and activities such as the Robots in the Wild scavenger hunt that are based on the book. Tittel explained that Goosechase is web-based or available on an app that families can download. “We will also offer paper and pencil versions for the parents that maybe don’t feel comfortable downloading the app. Either way, kids will be able to do a weekly choice board (a menu of activity options) and bring that back to their local library in their school and receive prizes.”
Great Bend Public Library will offer some “Robot STEM Training” on a Saturday. For that event, kids can participate in different “robotic activities.” They will learn to be a robot and receive a certificate when they complete the training.
Great Bend Recreation Commission will offer some art classes.
There are also several ways that students at Great Bend High School can get involved with the younger readers, Tittel said. Dan Heath’s video production class will create a video for the kickoff to be shown at all of the elementary schools, and Holly Johnson’s drama students will create a short play to present to each building. The GBHS Dance Line may be able to offer a dance party to wrap up the Reading Initiative in February.
The Great Bend Reading Initiative was first launched in 2015 to promote enjoyment for reading and boost student literacy skills by reading a well-loved children’s book with their families. Sponsors note that reading together strengthens parent-child relationships and promotes school, family, and community engagement.