PORTAGEVILLE -- An interactive workshop to encourage parents to read and tell stories with their children will be presented during two sessions this fall in Portageville.
"Read from the Start" will be from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 and Nov. 19 at Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium's office in Portageville.
Sandra Hewins, program director for Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium, said generally, said the program will be very beneficial to parents in Southeast Missouri, which has a very low literacy rate.
"Many residents in the area cannot afford the time or cost to take advantage of reading or literacy developmental skills," Hewins said. "...This is a great tool to increase the literacy rate."
Julie Douglas, family program specialist for Missouri Humanities Council, said a large body of research shows that children who are read to have a more extensive vocabulary, which is important.
"The better vocabulary they have, the more better they learn to read," Douglas said.
Provided by the Missouri Humanities Council, the free family reading program is open to all parents and caregivers of children ages birth to 5 years and particularly those who don't have lots of access to books or don't have them in home, Douglas said.
"Sessions will be facilitated by certified discussion leaders, and they will actually read together children's books then discuss them. They'll talk about the importance of rhyme and repetition in children's books and how it helps develop the language skills they need when learning to read," Douglas said.
Attendees can expect to learn how to discover new ways to read to their children and help their children become better readers, said both Hewins and Douglas.
"We will do lots of activities to discover fun ways to extend a book such as using crafts or songs," Douglas said.
Each year Missouri Humanities Council presents about 120 "Read from the Start" programs, which are made available through grants.
"This (workshop) is not just for people who know how to read because sometimes parents aren't good readers, and it hinders them from reading to their children," Douglas said. "This will show them other ways to read to their children and, hopefully, break the cycle."
Attendees will also receive seven free books, some of which are Caldecott Award winners. These core books are "Black on White" by Tana Hoban, "Goodnight Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown, "The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats, "A Chair For My Mother" by Vera B. Williams, "Mouse Count" by Ellen Stoll Walsh, "Gregory, the Terrible Eater" by Mitchell Sharmat and "Where the Wild Things Are" by Maurice Sendak.
"This is a high quality group of books, and most of them are classics. They're books you can use in a lot of different ways," Douglas said.
Take, for example, 'Black on White," a wordless book.
"It's really good for infants and really stimulating to their eyes and parents can continue to use that book with older children as a storytelling prop," Douglas said.
All of the books are similar in that their illustrations are really rich and provide a lot of opportunities to talk about what happens in the pictures and they can make up their own stories, Douglas said.
Other information parents will receive is a Missouri Library Association pamphlet about using rhymes and repetitious phrases and how it helps a child develop their listening skills, Douglas said.
"Before learning to read, they have to hear the sounds so that's why rhyme is important," Douglas said. "... A lot of parents didn't grow up with nursery rhymes themselves and this will get them excited and help them learn with their kids."
Because it's a two-session workshop, often times parents will come for the first week and explore using the books with their children. Then when they come back the second time, they share their experiences with others, Douglas said.
The workshop is limited to 15-20 participants so Douglas and Hewins encourage parents to reserve their space now.
"This will be fun," Douglas said. "It's not a lecture but an interactive workshop. There'll be lots of laughing and sharing ideas."
For more information or to register, call the MBRC office at (573) 379-2020.