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1st Annual Reading Carnival

Written by Emily Sefcik
June 12, 2021

Goal: Plan a family literacy event as part of the Coastal Bend Writing Project’s Panda Cares Fellowship at Metro Elementary. Create a little bit of normalcy for our students in a year that lacked many of the traditional school events. Encourage families to experience the joy of reading together. Give away as many books as possible.

It was clear early on that this event would be bigger than just the four of us (Corina Puente, Whitney Copeland, our Site Director, Susan Murphy, and myself) and our classes. With support from our school administration, PTA, parent liaison, and co-workers, our little family literacy event quickly turned into a school wide Reading Carnival.

Our event had several elements: “celebrity” read alouds, a story walk, games and photo opportunities, a student work showcase, and goodie bags. We wanted every student to go home with new books.

Our celebrity readers included our principal, Cori Gilbert, Mark Hartlaub, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and our librarian, Sara Molina. It was a joy to see kids listening and laughing with their families and friends. When Mrs. Gilbert got up to read I saw one little boy run across the grass to a spot where he could see better while yelling to his friend, “Oh, I love this book!”

We prepped the goodie bags ahead of time but waited to add books when the children picked up their bags. We had a wide range of reading levels as well as bilingual books and wanted to make sure each child got an appropriate book for their reading level and language preference. We included Panda Express coupons and Panda Foundation bookmarks, bookmarks and crayons for the students to color, along with snacks, and water.

We needed games to be simple and engaging so we created sight word hopscotch, a sound search, and a book walk. The book walk (like a cake walk, except with books) was the highlight. We used sidewalk chalk to put numbers on the ground around the flag pole. Each student (eight at a time) chose a number and then walked around the flag pole while we played music. When the music stopped we used a random number selector app to chose a number and the student on that number won a book! Students lined up and played over and over and over.

To highlight the connection between reading, writing, and art we displayed work from Ms. Puente’s second grade class. We witnessed many students proudly showing their work to their families. As a fine arts school, one of the things we’ve missed most this year is our traditional fine arts showcases in the winter and spring. It was clear the students enjoyed this opportunity to share their work.

Magenta Diaz, one of our amazing art teachers, and her middle school art students created carnival themed cut-outs for photo opportunities and they were a huge hit, especially with the older kids.

Our final feature was the story walk. We chose, The Magical Yet, by Angela DiTerlizzi. It’s a wonderful book that highlights the power of a growth mindset, hard work, and reaching your full potential. We deconstructed the book and put the pages on poster board. We used the fence to display the poster boards so families could walk and read the story together.

Planning the reading carnival was not without challenges but even after having to postpone the event a week due to stormy weather, it was a success. We saw 61 families and gave away hundreds of books. We saw smiling students reading and playing with their families and showing off their new books to friends. We had so much positive feedback from students, parents, and staff that we’ve been asked to make it an annual event. We plan to do just that.

Special thanks to Susan Murphy, Cori Gilbert, Sara Molina, Mark Hartlaub, Terrie Rios, and Sarah Staropoli for their help!