Literary Lunchtime: Beardsley Elementary Hosts Family Reading Picnic

Tuesday March 12, 2024

Students and parents are discovering the joy of reading thanks to a Lunchtime Literacy program at Beardsley Elementary School (Beardsley School District). Parents brought lunch for their students Friday, and the families sat down in the playground to read together.  

The Multilingual Education Department at Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) has teamed up with the school district, and several others, to host literacy events to encourage reading across the county. 

Kids and staff dressed as their favorite storybook characters, and students were encouraged to check out their favorite books from the school library. The Kern County Library was also on hand to give out free books.

Michael O’Neill, library associate, says the Kern County Library is always happy to participate in outreach events and inspire reading.  

“We use the opportunity to give away books to help kids build at-home libraries; a lot of folks don’t have that,” he said.

Ana Adamson, a program specialist with KCSOS, agrees, saying it’s vital for families to have access to books.

“Our focus is to increase opportunities for students to have access to books and create moments where students, parents, and staff can enjoy reading as a family, as a school community,” she said.

Katherine Wilkins is a parent to a third grader and a substitute teacher for the school district. She says she’s grateful for the chance to support not only her own family but also the other students.

“Some kids at home, they don’t really have the opportunity,” she said. “So I think it’s really important to have events like this at the school where they have the opportunity to read with their families.”

Parent Belinda Ratcliffe says she and her husband took off work to surprise their kids. She says events like these are so important because they get parents involved and instill in children the joy of reading. 

“Especially with the little one learning to read, it gives her a little bit more of an incentive to start reading more books,” she said.

Belinda Ratcliffe, her husband and their two kids enjoying family reading time.

Research shows family reading is one of the most important things a parent can do to help their child build reading and writing skills. Reading helps children develop better fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Reading as a family has also been shown to enhance cognitive development, encourage empathy and social awareness, promote family bonds, and set children up for continued success in the future.

“In addition to all the positive benefits of reading, we want to create a fun atmosphere where reading is joyful,” Adamson said.

The school library also offered Spanish-language books to encourage multilingual reading and foster a welcoming environment for all families.

“We are trying to reach out to our English learner population and make sure that parents feel part of the community,” Adamson said. “They feel invited, they feel welcomed, they feel comfortable to come in.”

Beardsley Principal Aimee Williamson says she’s happy with the large family turnout at the event. No child was left out. She says teachers used their lunch hour to spend time eating and reading with students whose parents couldn’t make it.

Williamson says it’s wonderful to see parents engaged with their kids and students excited to share what they’ve learned.

“I think it is an encouragement for the parents, and the kids are encouraged, so it just becomes a complete family event,” she said.

Kimiko Barron and her husband are parents to a first and second grader in Beardsley’s special education program. She says she loves to be involved in her students’ education and is happy to see how far they’ve come.

“To watch them from not being able to talk to now learning how to read a book. They’ve grown so much, it’s an amazing experience to be able to watch it,” she said. “I’m excited to see how far they will go.”

A similar reading picnic was held at San Lauren Elementary in November. More literacy events are scheduled at other elementary schools in the district throughout the rest of the school year and beyond.

“Anything we can do to inspire a child, to inspire that love for reading and that curiosity,” Adamson said.

By Katie Avery

By Katie Avery

Katie Avery joined the Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2023 as a Communications Specialist. As a former journalist and marketing professional, her passions include media and storytelling. Before joining KCSOS, Avery worked for various local TV stations as well as the health care industry.