Published in the Telluride Daily Planet: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 7:55 PM CST
The Telluride Foundation brought late Christmas presents to the kids of the Telluride Early Childhood Center, big boxes wrapped in tissue paper.
They were (shhh! The kids don't know yet!) bags of books that the kids could take home, trying to encourage home reading.
"The whole activity of reading with your child in your lap promotes good reading habits and good brain development," said elementary school principal Trish Scherner.
Yesterday, it looked like a birthday party in the school's big room, with the present boxes and balloons. This way, books are not a chore but a present. The set-up fooled both Jonathan and Cory into believing it was their birthday, even though it was not.
Ms. Scherner asked the kids, cross-legged on the floor, to guess what was in the boxes. Several guessed "pony." Kai Kasuno guessed "prince." Several girls guessed "princess." But no.
Ms. Scherner explained where they boxes came from.
"We have a great organization in town, the Telluride Foundation, and the brought us the presents," she said, and the kids nodded, because they are all very interested in nonprofits, as long as these nonprofits bring presents. "These are presents you get to bring home."
"A pony!" a girl said.
"I guess you could take a pony home," Ms. Scherner said.
Children who grew up with parents who read to them are known to reap all kinds of benefits. They do better in school, learn to read earlier, have better vocabularies, and more.
Because not everybody was so lucky, when they were kids, to have parents who read to them, parents had to show up for a training last week and sign a contract saying they'd read to their kids five times a week.
Parents who did not have reading parents might not make it a priority to read to their kids. And they might not even understand the simple mechanics of putting the child in your lap and reading aloud.Kids kept guessing what was inside the boxes. They remained covinced that inside the boxes were ponies and princes. Ms. Erin Dann explained that what was inside the boxes could very well be a prince. "The things in here can take you places you've never been," she said.
"New York?" a kid said.
"Even farther than New York. ... The things in here will help you be ... anything you want to be," Ms. Dann said, quite truthfully.
At the training, parents who did not seem to be able to read - and there are a few - were given books that did not have words. And everybody got a DVD on how to read aloud to kids. The goal is to get the kids used to sitting and turning pages.The program cost the Telluride Foundation $3,400.
About half the kids in the preschools are Latinos for whom English is not their first language. So there is a Spanish-language book in every bag. And in many, there are books that are bilingual, telling the story in both languages.
"It doesn't matter what language you read to your kids," Ms. Scherner said, "as long as you're reading."There were balloon with numbers in them, and the kids popped them to figure out which book bag was theirs.
Joanna came away with the classic book "But Not the Hippopotamus." She said there are some books in her home, but "poquitos" - very few. Mercedes said there are none. Now, Mercedes have a book about penguins and, in her Spanglish words, "un baby."