The sounds of farm animals filled the McDonalds restaurant at Summit Place in Silverthorne Friday morning. No, it wasn’t the scene of a protest. The sounds came from an enthusiastic gaggle of young children from several preschools and childcare programs in Summit County.
The reason for the ruckus was Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, who read aloud from the children’s book “Duck on a Bike,” encouraging his audience to join in.
Summit County was Garcia’s second to last stop for his weeklong tour of schools to celebrate Colorado Literacy Week.
After the reading, Garcia walked around the restaurant — bedecked in balloons and a small performance stage — to sign books and talk to children.
“You’re going to read, right?” he said to one little boy clutching his book. “Read as much as you can.”
Books and literacy
This entire week has been about literacy for Garcia, who has been touring schools in the Denver, northeastern Colorado, San Luis Valley and central mountain areas.
The purpose of Literacy Week, according to Garcia’s office, is to highlight local literary initiatives that are gaining success in getting children to read.
Another key component of Literacy Week is the One Book 4 Colorado (OB4C) program. Now in its second year, the goal of the program is to give a book to every 4-year-old in Colorado. Each year, one book, available in both English and Spanish, is chosen to be distributed at schools and libraries. The hope is that the campaign will support literacy at an early stage in a child’s life, therefore paving the way for further literacy learning. Garcia carried this year’s book, “Duck on a Bike” with him on his tour.
Literacy Week and One Book 4 Colorado are aspects of the “Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative,” the state’s plan to work to ensure that every child in Colorado learns to read. Garcia’s own early literacy focus is getting every student reading at least at their own grade level by third grade.
Dillon Valley Elementary
After his performance at McDonald’s in Silverthorne, Garcia made his way over to Dillon Valley Elementary, where he attended a presentation put on by the school and took time to speak with parents and community leaders one-on-one.
“We’re here at Dillon Valley Elementary school because of the tremendous success they have with English language learners; this dual language program and some of the very innovative instructions they’re doing in classrooms here are making a difference,” said Julie McCluskie, director of communications for Garcia’s office. “Kids are leaning to read earlier and better, which is making a difference in the community. We want to learn about it, we want to be able to share it elsewhere in the state.”
Students assembled to listen to a speech by Garcia on the importance of reading. Next, Garcia watched a video about the school dual language program, in which students, teachers and parents spoke in both English and Spanish about the program’s impact. The fifth-grade Writing Club also gave a dual-language presentation about their club and the postal system they implemented this year.
“Dillon Valley is just at the front edge of all of this and to have the lieutenant governor come and show is support is just terrific,” said town of Dillon mayor Ron Holland.
After the assembly, Garcia met with teachers, parents and community members in the school library for further discussion about Dillon Valley Elementary, the Summit School District and its programs.
State Rep. Millie Hamner was also on hand, discussing her recent work with the state government, including the Colorado READ Act, which focuses on early literacy development, particularly kindergarten through third grade.
In addition to the dual-language program, attention was focused on the Pre-collegiate Program at the high school and the Reading Recovery program at the elementary level.
Throughout, Garcia and Hamner asked questions about how teachers and administrators encouraged parental participation and how wide a reach the programs had.
At the end of the session, Garcia said he came away with a portrait of a supportive educational community.
“What I saw was a real commitment to helping all kids achieve, both the high performers and the English language learners, and to really creating incredible opportunities for all of them, so I was very very impressed,” he said. “I would love to see more energy like what I saw today, in districts all around the state. We really need more of this creativity and this commitment.”
Now that Colorado Literacy Week is over, Garcia will analyze what he’s learned from touring and decide how best to put those ideas into action.
“What we’re trying to do now is gather the best ideas and then come up with lists of best practices, figure out what things we might need legislation to support and what things we can support just by broadcasting it, for example, what’s done here,” he said. “We don’t need legislation, we just need commitment. We want to share this story around the state.”
Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace said she and those around her were pleased to be a part of Garcia’s week-long tour and have the opportunity for one-on-one dialogue with the lieutenant governor.
Margaret Carlson, president of the Board of Education, agreed. “We have a lot of the same challenges that other schools around the state have and we’re proud to be tackling those well,” she said. “It’s nice to know that things can be learned from what we’re doing here.”
Perhaps no one was quite as excited as Dillon Valley principal Cathy Beck.
“We were certainly honored to have the lieutenant governor come and celebrate Colorado Literacy Week here at Dillon Valley,” she said “That was so meaningful and to the work that we do here every day, to have someone from his office come and validate that what we’re doing is working. We were thrilled to death. It was very exciting for all our kids and the parents and it was just a great way to sit back and think about what we’ve accomplished this year.”
“What I saw was a real commitment to helping all kids achieve, both the high performers and the English language learners, and to really creating incredible opportunities for all of them, so I was very very impressed.”
Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia