student and teacher

Chicago Heights School District 170 recently kicked off its second year of collaboration with the Illinois Reading Council by hosting a "Going Beyond … Once Upon a Time" Parent Academy Literacy/STEM event at Garfield School.

A Literacy Support Grant from the Illinois Reading Council provided funding for the event.

The activity was the first of four to be held during the 2017-18 school year and was explicitly designed to be an integral part of classroom-guided instruction while working in conjunction with the district's Parent Academy Program.

According to Jennifer Gorton, the Parent Academy Director, the program engages students and their families in a positive relationship that accelerates the possibility of academic success.

"The CHSD 170 Parent Academy Program is a family engagement initiative that was designed to empower families with specific grade-level curriculum content, instructional strategies, and learning opportunities that best support a student's continued academic and social growth both at home and in the classroom," Gorton said.

"We engage our school community with the opportunity of working with grade-level teaching teams and set high expectations for family participation," she added.

"In providing high-quality and relevant learning experiences that align with specific English Language Arts and Math curriculum standards we directly involve the home in maximizing student success."

The Parent Academy Program is designed as a monthly in-school workshop that gives parents of students in grades K-4 the opportunity to work closely with their child's classroom teacher. During each session, parents work together with teachers to practice and reinforce new skills and concepts that their child is learning. 

"We are proud to continue our efforts with the support of the IRC grant," Gorton said, "and especially so because that support serves as recognition of our efforts in improving our students' skills in reading comprehension and problem-solving."

This recent "Going Beyond …Once Upon A Time" literacy initiative activity focused on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale and incorporated a variety of events designed to encourage, inform and empower families with both literacy curriculum and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) problem-solving strategies for continued learning opportunities at home.

The "Three Little Pigs" event was a great success with over 70 students and their families attending. All participants left the event with a fractured fairy tale of The Three Little Pigs plus the one-of-a-kind house that they designed to protect the pigs from the big, bad wolf.

During these Parent Academy Literacy/STEM events, families work together with their children sharing a read-aloud experience, using pictures to re-tell a story, creating a story element map, comparing and contrasting texts. The events close with the families designing a "happily ever after" solution for the story's beloved, yet somewhat battered protagonists.

The next "Going Beyond…Once Upon a Time" Parent Academy Literacy/STEM event will be held in December and will present the fairy tale, "The Gingerbread Man."

"We are thrilled to offer events such as these because they embody the mission statement of the Illinois Reading Council by supporting those who promote and teach lifelong literacy," Gorton concluded.