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Literacy night at MES

Article Date: 
22 November, 2013 (All day)

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” -Dr. Seuss
Thursday, Nov. 14, approximately 100 Morgan Elementary School students and their families were back in the classrooms long after school hours were over. These kids were happy to file through the hallway in and out of classrooms, the commons area and gym to experience Literacy Night.
This annual evening is planned to help parents understand the importance of reading at home and to bring families together for an enjoyable evening focused on literacy.  Families with excellent readers and struggling readers came to enjoy the evening and get ideas of new things they can do.  From hands on activities to lists of learning apps, each grade hosted a classroom where parents could get ideas for their child’s age group.  
This year Miriam Erickson, Read. Graduate. Succeed. Tutor Coordinator for Americorps, worked with the principal, teachers and others to create more of a community feel.  She felt a great reception from many who would like to be involved.  
Morgan Extension Office and the 4-H program had a craft area where students could make pinecone turkeys.  The table was popular and led by middle school and high school 4-H members.  
The Morgan County library joined in with a craft of their own.  Each student could design his or her own ribbon book mark.  
A natural partner in literacy, The Morgan County News had information on subscriptions in the commons area.  The Morgan County News works hard to support the schools in activities and academics. 
Local author and illustrator Ginny Tilby joined the evening for a book signing of her recent work “You Should! You Should!”  This is particularly inspiring for young readers who one day would like to write and illustrate books of their own. The story is applicable to young children who enjoyed a special reading of her book earlier in the day.
Milan Mecham capped off the night with his legendary recounts of exciting and comical stories.  Mecham has the ability to spin a tale to where the listener no longer knows what is true and what is fabricated, but everyone ends up smiling.  
Mecham related how he loved to read when he was young and always chose stories of mountain men and Indians.  Throughout his lifetime, these types of stories have continued to captivate him.  He remembers being particularly excited when he started finding stories about mountain men and Indians from Morgan!  
This particular evening’s presentation wove together stories and songs of bear encounters that were barely believable. The first story recounted a documented expedition of Jedidiah Smith where Smith was viciously attacked by a bear and instructed a doctor on how to reattach his scalp before he continued to lead his expedition.  The award-winning story teller was able to tell this story and entertain the kids and adults.  He told of how valuable Smith’s skills of writing were and how he was lucky during that time period to have such ability.   
A Bear in Tennis Shoes, a fun sing and repeat song, had the audience participating.  Mecham taught for 33 years and regularly used his guitar in the classroom.  He found that music related very well to literacy and gave the kids something fun to do while they learned.  
He ended his storytelling with a yarn about his Uncle Loomis.  This particular story made it difficult to know where the facts end and the story begins, but Mecham adheres to the motto “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”  He included fun tidbits about his uncle’s small pocket knife while pulling out a weapon that would make Mick from Crocodile Dundee say “Now that’s a knife!”  
Literacy Night was a success, attendance was higher than expected, parents came away with useful information, and families enjoyed a fun evening together.
“Miriam has done a really good job,” Principal Tim Wolff said.   Principal Wolff has been very pleased with Americorps and all of the help they have given the school.  Through generous funding from Holcim and United Way, Americorps is able to coordinate over 30 volunteers who tutor nearly 60 children.  They are constantly striving to help students who are behind get on or above grade level on their reading skills. 
While there were many resources handed out that night that were targeted to individual ages and reading levels, Erickson suggests several ways parents can help all of their elementary children improve their reading.  First she suggests finding books they love.  Help them find books they enjoy and that are the right level for them. The five finger rule will help determine the correct reading level.  Open a book and have the child read one page.  Hold up a finger for every word they don’t know or have trouble pronouncing.  If there are zero to one fingers up the book is too easy; two to three fingers the book is at an interesting level;  four fingers the book is at the challenge level; five fingers up and it is at the frustration level and is not a good choice for now.
Americorps is always looking for volunteers.  If you are willing to volunteer to make a difference in a student’s education, please contact the school at (801) 829-3438.  
“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”  -Frederick Douglass