Reading project aids community

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Kudos to a Denton business and local university students for teaming up to provide top-flight story time sessions for children.

If you think the written word is losing its appeal and reading skills are falling victim to new technology, we’d suggest that you drop by Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Denton, where Texas Woman’s University students are leading one of the sessions.

Children gather at the store nearly every Friday to listen as TWU students read three books, commanding their listeners’ attention in a way that more closely resembles a classroom exercise than a bookstore activity.

The program, a partnership between TWU’s chapter of the Association of Texas Public Educators and the book store, dates back to 2010. After starting as a summer program with few participants, the story time now draws about 30 children each week and is held year-round, said Rebecca Fredrickson, a TWU professor and program director.

The project developed after a suggestion from TWU students, Fredrickson told us. The students wanted to interact with youngsters over the summer but didn’t know how to go about it.

TWU students are still at the helm of the program. They pick a theme every week and then find books that fit the theme. Barnes & Noble allows the TWU students to borrow the books to study and practice reading aloud, and the students design an activity that the children can enjoy after reading time.

The program not only allows the students to hone their teaching skills but it also helps promote Barnes & Noble, said Mark Brown, community relations manager at the Denton store.

“It’s fun for the parents and kids to interact with these new teachers, and it’s different from having an employee come out to do story time,” he said. “I can’t do it and have as much fun as they do.”

The program has many benefits, according to those involved. By picking the books, transitions and the activities, teaching candidates have a chance to practice their skills and also enhance their classroom management techniques, said Sarah McMahan, a TWU professor who also directs the program.

Since the program began, more than 120 TWU students studying to be educators and even more children have participated in the program.

The effort has had some unintended benefits, as well, such as familiarizing parents with higher education and making them feel more comfortable with the concept.

Parents are recognizing the program as a college service, and since the student teachers aren’t intimidating, it makes college seem more accessible and not as scary, McMahan told us.

This program is a great example of what can be accomplished when local businesses team up with those in our education community. Businesses benefit in many ways when they tap into the vast resources provided by our universities, and in return, students can gain valuable real-world experience while supplementing their lesson plans.

It’s a powerful partnership, and the community is the ultimate winner.


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