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Books and Beyond

Books and Beyond: Infusing Creativity into Reading Experiences

A blanket, a snack and a good book. Is there any better way to enjoy a nice day at the park? For Arielle Deloney and the families in her program, it’s not just a great way to spend the day. It’s an intentional literacy practice.

Deloney is a family child care provider and owner of Sky Preschool, a home-based program enrolled in Quality First in the First Things First Phoenix South region. First Things First is Arizona’s early childhood agency, and funds Quality First to help early care and education providers improve the quality of their programs.

As a Quality First participant, Deloney has focused her efforts on building a love of reading among the children in her care, whom she lovingly refers to as her “scholars.” Families and the local community are taking notice.

We recently caught up with Deloney to learn how she turned a pandemic activity into an annual event called Story Time at the Park..

What changes have you made in your program to promote a love of reading?

In the past, I would just choose a book to read throughout the day so scholars could hear the fluency of reading and to calm children before transitions. Now, I am more intentional about the books I select. I take time to explore a book myself by taking notes. Then, I connect it to science, math, cooking or art activities. Over the next few days we reread the story to extend the dialogue and use the activities to show understanding and comprehension.

How do you involve families and the community?

During the pandemic, my kids and I wanted to get outside and interact with friends so bad. I thought since we can’t get to the beach right now, we can improvise. The idea was to celebrate Read Across America with a day in the park where everyone brings blankets, snacks, and books and we can spread out across the park as we would on the beach.  What better way to promote reading and also give family and friends a fun outlet to get out of the house? Since then, we have been hosting Story Time in the Park every year in March and have had great success! We invite all current and previous families associated with Sky Preschool over the last three years, and extended family and friends in the neighborhood.

What made you want to start these efforts?

My biggest goal was to promote reading consistency both inside and outside the classroom. I wanted to create a space where reading is FUN! Often, reading can be portrayed as punishment. I wanted to change the narrative so that you can engage in a story, make it fun and get creative! Scholars don’t realize they are taking on different reading skill sets. For example, they identify letter sounds, blend sounds, and read sight words. They are just caught in the moment, enjoying the fun and creativity of the story.

How have these practices improved the quality of your program, and what have others noticed?

Implementing more reading and fun activities has given my scholars more confidence when being introduced to books. They get excited about reading! Although at this age level, they are not reading fluently, their imagination allows them to mimic what they’ve seen demonstrated. They know how to introduce a book and get excited about it.

Families can see that we are taking time with the exploration of books. We’re not just reading a book but learning the functions of a book. We explore the front cover, the back cover, the spine, the title page, author and illustrator. These scholars are also demonstrating these functions at home with their families.

What might you tell a colleague who is thinking about doing something similar?

I would say step outside your comfort zone and get creative! Get excited about reading because when you are excited, your scholars will be too!

Additional literacy resources:

At Quality First, we love to hear from you! Share your new and innovative practices so others can be inspired. Email us at QualityFirst@FirstThingsFirst.org.