How-to Files: Bright Zone program models bonding through reading to pre-schoolers
St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Frisco, TX, began “Bright Reader Summer Fun Group” in 2009 as an extension of its school-year mentoring program at Bright Elementary school. The program was designated as a Jubilee Ministry in 2011.
This last summer, the five-week-long camp served more than 150 children (an average of 30 per day). Encouraging a love of reading is the primary goal. Children are engaged in reading-related games and arts/crafts activities, and are encouraged to take home books each day.
Books come from a supply donated primarily by St. Philip’s parishioners. All activities of the summer camp center around a theme. Last summer was “Read for the Gold,” an Olympics theme; this year was “Dig up a Good Book,” a fossils and dinosaurs theme.
Volunteers noticed that many parents who were dropping off their elementary school children had preschoolers in tow. This summer, Bright Zone Ministry added a new simultaneous program tailored specifically for preschoolers. Parents were required to attend with their preschoolers, and encouraged and guided to become their child’s first teacher.
The new program offers an opportunity for parents and younger children to bond over crafts, books and music, bringing participants one step closer in breaking the cycle of poverty within their family. The core component of the Parents and Preschoolers program involves parents reading along with their children, while a teacher reads the same book aloud to the class. This modeling approach gives parents guidance on how they can do this at home.
Another focus of the program is to build the child’s vocabulary. The program also includes daily parenting tips such as "Love and Logic", nutrition and at-home learning opportunities.
Together, the elementary and the preschool programs are staffed with about 85 volunteers, which include teachers from Bright Elementary, church members, and local high school honor society members.
Let me tell you the story of one volunteer, a teenager named Jennifer. She came with her mother, to act as an interpreter, so her brother could be enrolled in the elementary reading program. Seeing other young folks her age working as volunteers, she asked if she could help. Arrangements were made to include her as a volunteer with the elementary group. In addition, her mother and 4-year-old brother enrolled in the Parents and Preschool program.
A postscript to this story is that the mother is now enrolled in Bright Zone Ministry’s ESL program. Truly, Bright Zone Jubilee Ministry has made a difference in this family’s life!
--The Rev. Rosemary Trei is a deacon and the Diocesan Jubilee Officer in the Diocese of Dallas.