Reading brings generations together in Ocean Park

Maria Galvan reads with her children, Jorge, Rosie, Esmarelda and Dalila during Family Reading Night at Ocean Park Elementary on Thursday. DAMIAN MULINIX photo

OCEAN PARK - After attempts in the past to start a monthly family activity night, Ocean Park Elementary School may have found the vehicle to get them going - reading.

The school opened its doors a little later then usual last Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to be exact, to host Family Reading Night. Students and their families were invited to fill their bellies with a meal of spaghetti and salad, then retire to one of the classrooms in the old school to fill their minds with imagination while reading a book together.

"When parents are involved with their kids' education, the children do better in school," said Cathy Minehart, reading coordinator at Ocean Park School. "When parents read to their kids, the kids read better."

The idea for the Family Reading Night stemmed from the school's involvement in reading programs, sponsored by a Washington Reads grant, instituted last year. Every month the preschool at Ocean Park Elementary holds a dinner and activity night for families at the school and the reading night was planned around that.

"We've been trying in our school to do more community things," said Minehart, "to bring people into the school more."

Minehart said that this particular reading night is new, though they have done other kinds of family nights in the past, none with the success of this most recent try. They had 100 people sign up, with 80 attending. Minehart said they will be having a family night at the school every month through the rest of the year, and in the future may also feature math and games.

"That way they could read awhile, then maybe go play games in another room. Maybe do a couple of math lessons," said Ocean Park School Principal Bette Arne.

They've also talked about having a test prep night where parents could quiz their children on upcoming tests, like the ITBS and WASL tests.

Though the students have specific books they are to read as part of the reading program at the school, on this night they could pick out any book they wanted. Once completing the story, the students did a short quiz on a computer and the book was counted towards their progress in the reading program - a program that is said to be building some steam.

"We've made a lot more progress this year then we did last year," said Minehart. "A lot of things have come together a little bit better. Kids are making a lot more progress."

Minehart added that a lot of the success the program is seeing, stems from the involvement of parents.

"We have a lot of parents really interested in coming into the school," she said. "The kids love to read, they're really excited about reading. Kids go home and nag their parents."

The next Family Night at Ocean Park School will be on Feb. 13. Long Beach Elementary School is said to be planning their own Family Night next month as well. The staff at Ocean Park is looking at gathering teachers to volunteer on different evenings to see that the Family Nights work, trying to make them self-sufficient.

"Sometimes we do one and then kind of quit because we get waylaid," said Minehart. "We're trying to set this up so that it runs on its own two feet."

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