Making room for reading |

Making room for reading

DILLON VALLEY – It was almost like Christmas, but instead of opening gifts, the families at Dillon Valley Elementary School Monday evening were wrapping boxes – literacy boxes – with brightly-colored paper and decorations.

“We have to kick the parents out at the end of the evening because they’re having so much fun,” said Cheri Breeman, coordinator of the Literacy Box Project, a program designed to teach parents the importance of reading to their children.

Training sessions, like the one on Monday, are designed for both parent and child. The goal of the sessions is to make parents aware of the importance of early literacy by teaching them techniques for reading to a child.

“Reading creates a lasting bond between parent and child,” said Claudia Ascanio-Gomez, a program instructor.

For many parents – especially first-time parents – reading to children isn’t inherent. Many adults were never read to as children, Breeman said, and, therefore, don’t know they should read to their own children. The local program targets the Spanish-speaking residents in particular and offers two-thirds of its sessions in Spanish.

“Early childhood sets a foundation for the rest of their life,” Breeman said. “So if they start good habits when they’re young, they’re going to keep those good habits.”

Those good habits will increase a child’s chance of success as he or she grows older, she said.

The Monday training session began with a video, which taught parents the importance of reading and writing and included tips such as how to read to children and how to get a library card. Then came the fun part – making the literacy boxes.

Each family worked together to make an individualized literacy box for their child. They used construction paper to cover the boxes and added different decorations both inside and out. The program donates the supplies – a book (in Spanish or in English), scissors, pencils, stickers, paper and crayons.

The idea is that children will put the box in a special place and keep his or her books there, Ascanio-Gomez said. It is a reminder to both parents and children that they should read together at least five to 20 minutes each day.

“Not only getting them excited about reading, but also doing things together … so that, hopefully, parents will help children with their homework as they get older,” Breeman said.

And the boxes work, said Ascanio-Gomez, translating for Summit County resident Juana Zubia. Monday was the second time Zubia attended a training session with one of her grandchildren. Every time the children see the literacy box at home, they want to read.

Until this year, the program offered three training sessions each year, using a grant from the Colorado Department of Education. This year, however, they will be able to offer monthly training sessions, thanks to a $4,800 literacy grant from the Summit County Rotary Club.

This will allow the program to reach the parents of several hundred children each year instead of only 60, said Gil Smith, a local Rotarian who was volunteering at Monday’s session.

“It’s a really worthwhile project, and I’m really excited that Rotary is helping us with it,” Breeman said.

Breeman typically spreads the word about the literacy sessions by distributing flyers at local preschools and apartment buildings. Now that the program will offer monthly sessions, she hopes to include notices in the newspaper. Until then, interested parents can call Claudia Ascanio-Gomez at Dillon Valley Elementary, at (970) 468-6836, for more information.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

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