By Felicia Truman, corps member serving at Gossler Park Elementary School
I felt a knot in my chest as students followed me and Miss Kira Boyd into our “Mystery Room”. We had preparing for this night for weeks. I felt both nervous and excited that our Gossler Park City Year team’s literacy night: “Imagine, It’s Your World,” was finally happening.
We had been pleasantly surprised by the turn-out; the gym seemed full of students and parents. Seeing families there together, taking time out of their busy schedules to attend our event was especially important to us. We wanted to help bring families together to promote a love of reading and writing.
There were three themed rooms in all, the “Mystery Room”, the “Magic School Bus Room” and the “Hip Hop Room”. The posters were up, the activity stations set and there were volunteers in red jackets helping students as they entered the Gossler Park gymnasium and working on the finishing touches. My fellow corps members and I had greeted students enthusiastically as they entered, with literacy themed energizers such as “You got to Read it! Read it!” and a few short skits to explain what students would be doing and where they would be going. There would be three rotations of students so that each child would have a chance to be in each room. The room I was co-leading was decorated to promote the mystery genre. On the door we hung black streamers, on the walls there were posters explaining the characteristics of a mystery story, on the shelves we had lined up mystery books, in the background we played detective music and on the desks we had set out a mad lib for students to complete using the mystery books.
Along with supporting students with math, behavior and attendance, literacy is one of City Year new Hampshire’s main focuses. As I have learned so far this year, one of the best ways to improve a student’s reading score is to promote a love of literacy at home. Children who are encouraged to read have an advantage over those who do not. The Gossler Park City Year team wanted a night that could spark a lifelong interest in reading because something that seems as simple as reading to your child could change their life by granting them access to more opportunities.
Students and their parents followed us into our room. They were quiet but I could feel their excitement. I was dressed as Velma from “Scooby Doo” and when my students finally realized it was me under those big glasses, short wig and orange sweater, they could barely contain themselves. Kira and I explained to them the basic components of a story from the mystery genre and then gave them a mystery Mad Lib called “Who Stole the Lunch Money?” that they filled out using clues from mystery stories in the room.
After the students completed the Mad Lib in our mystery room a few City Year members performed a skit. I hadn’t realized what great actors my fellow corps members could be, and both students, parents and teachers laughed along as the skit revealed that no one had stolen the lunch money at all, it had been misplaced. After the skit it was time for another rotation. Students laughed and gave us high fives. One of the parents asked if we had previous acting ability.
“What a terrific evening! City Year’s Literacy night was top notch! Terrific job pulling it altogether. The crowd loved it. What a positive way for our students and their families to spend time together. Thank you for all your hard work City Year,” said Mrs. Whitmore, a third grade teacher at Gossler Park. Hearing all of the positive reviews and seeing the looks of joy on the students faces proved to me that we had made a difference and that we had helped students take one more step towards a love of literacy. The Gossler Park City Year team’s creativity, strength and unity had made the night a success. I was proud of the work we had accomplished, but seeing the joy on the faces of the students, families and teachers was the most important part for me.