Parents and their children from Best Start Communities are participating in the Flights of Fantasy Story Theatre “Engaging Family in Literacy” Workshops, which informs parents about the important role story time plays in a child’s development of language and how it can increase the parent-child bond.
“I had heard that there was this opportunity and I thought it was great for parents because often parents don’t know how to introduce storytelling to their children,” said Olvia Diaz, Best Start Panorama City Guidance Body member, who suggested the program for her Best Start community. “We understand that reading is important but we have to meet financial and other household priorities. It’s an issue here and in other countries. It’s also difficult to buy those books that you know are great books for your children but you just know you cannot afford them.”
The two hour workshops, which are funded in part by First 5 LA, have been held this summer for about 100 parents and caregivers in the Best Start Communities of Broadway/Manchester, Panorama City, West Athens, Watts/Willowbrook and Compton. Future workshops will be held on September 24 in Panorama City, September 25 in Pacoima and September 26 in West Athens.
“Reading builds vocabulary, builds a bond between the parent and a child. It’s important to let parents know that they are their child’s first teacher.”
“These workshops are important to First 5 LA because they equip parents with new techniques and tools that will impact the development and skills of children 0-5,” said First 5 LA Vista Volunteer Michael Fleming, who is coordinating the workshops. “With all 14 Best Start Communities participating in these parent workshops, we will have reached over 100 families from Long Beach to Palmdale.”
For the first part of the workshops, children are provided with child care while instructors from Flights of Fantasy Story Theatre educate parents and caregivers about the importance of reading to children.
“It’s not how long you read with a child, it’s the quality of time you spend together,” said Lorrie Oshatz, artistic director of Flights of Fantasy Story Theatre. “Reading builds vocabulary, builds a bond between the parent and a child. It’s important to let parents know that they are their child’s first teacher.”
Parents are also encouraged to use the local library, which provides free books and fosters an environment conducive to reading.
The workshops end with a 30-minute “story time”, where the children return to read with their parents while Oshatz and acting partner Theresa Amy provide reading tips.
“The single most important tool is reading aloud,” Oshatz said. “Ninety percent of parents do not know how to use expression and pacing when reading to their children. It makes a much better, more engaging story time. The kids love nothing more than to see their parents be silly. It makes the child want to hear more stories and want to read themselves.”
Impact of the workshops is already being felt in some of the communities. Said Diaz: “A group of mothers came out of this workshop planning to get together in the park on Saturday to read together to their children.”