Volunteers recently transformed Newark High School into a tropical paradise to give students grades Pre-K-5 and their parents a beach vacation during Family Fun Literacy Luau Night.
Children and their parents enjoyed hearing stories from two local librarians; swimming in the NHS pool; creating paper leis; eating beach-themed snacks including cheese-flavored beach balls, licorice tubes and surfing bear cupcakes; and selected four or more books to take home.
The free event was organized by Derek Poole, family literacy coordinator for Literacy Volunteers of Wayne County. Poole founded the Our Community Reads program, which holds similar events in five participating Wayne County school districts: Newark, Lyons, Red Creek, North Rose-Wolcott and Gananda.
He was assisted in planning for the luau night by program assistant Chris Mizro and Our Community Reads Newark Advisory Committee members.
Newark Public Library children’s librarian Krystina Dippel and Gananda Elementary School librarian Caitlin Barnes, who works part time in NPL’s children’s library, read books to the 25 children and parents attending the event. Dippel and Barnes were in charge of providing materials for crafts.
Children at the event were from Newark elementary schools, Roosevelt Children’s Center in Newark and East Palmyra Christian School.
Retired Kelley School third-grade teacher and Our Community Reads committee member Kathy Eckert provided the snacks.
Noting Wayne County has a 10 percent illiteracy rate, Poole said the Our Community Reads events are intended to put the importance of family literacy in a fun context and to provide free books for children.
“Newark has been one of our best community endeavors for Our Community Reads because of the very committed and supportive volunteers we have here,” Poole said.
The next event the organization is planning will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. March 20 at Park Presbyterian Church, 110 Maple Court, Newark. The event will have a pajama party theme; children can bring their favorite stuffed animals. Informational flyers will be sent home with children at Perkins and Lincoln Schools. The event will be open to pre-kindergarten through second-grade students.
Newark’s Our Community Reads Advisory Committee members include Poole; Mizro; Eckert; Dippel; John Robbins, LVWC board vice president ; Mike Muscolino, director of Alex Eligh Community Center Director; and Linda Bridgeman, village of Newark Department of Public Works deputy clerk.