Family Literacy Project
Written in collaboration with my colleagues, Rosana Rodriguez and Samantha Auerbach
Our vision for our family literacy event was to create an opportunity for our community to share their stories of growth and perseverance.Our team decided that a digital time capsule would be the best way to honor our time apart. As we began to plan and share ideas, we wanted to ensure that our entire Carthay community would be a part of this literacy experience, which is why we decided that our entire stipend would be donated to our school library. With every submission shared we announced that we would donate $5.00 to our school library. Our librarian Mrs. Mack has been a part of our school community for about a year, in the time that she has spent with us she has worked diligently and enthusiastically to ensure that our students have a library that is accessible and inclusive to all of its members. This stipend will allow her to purchase books and equipment that will excite and engage our students.
We quickly got to work on our vision and created our Carthay Capsule choice board. The theme of our literacy event was, how did you grow together as a family this year? We wanted to give families a few options to choose from to create a differentiated approach and to tap into varied learning preferences. The choice board options included telling or writing a story about how their family grew together, a recipe their family enjoyed during the last year, new family traditions that began during the pandemic, and any music, art, or other artistic expressions their family created together over the year. The flyer included where to submit entries, an email for questions, and an incentive note: for every submission to the Carthay Capsule, we would donate five dollars to our school library.
A month before submissions for our literacy event were due, we informed our staff and principal of our event. We were worried that many teachers and families were busy with returning to in-person learning or staying online and we wouldn’t have good participation because of these changes. To ease the transition, we drafted an email template for teachers to simply copy and paste to send to their classrooms and families. We checked in with families and teachers throughout the process, helping them upload their entries to the google form, and answering any emails that came to our newly created account. Many families reached out and said, “Can we submit more than one entry?!” We loved the enthusiasm and hoped that it would continue over the course of the month.
Given how burnt out everyone was by the end of the year, we were surprised and touched by the turnout for our Carthay Capsule. We had almost 70 submissions representing every grade level. Teachers also got involved in the project, urging their students with writing prompts and whole-class projects to guarantee their students would have a memory encapsulated.
Included in the entries were special family recipes, drawings, videos, journal entries, slideshows, and many, many photos. A couple students described visits to the school building; one student wrote about voting in the 2020 presidential election at our school and how her mom let her press the buttons to make their choice as a family. Another student wrote about how he helped his mom take care of the school garden and chickens while everyone was away. He said, “I wish my friends could have come.” One student filmed a singing video recipe for deli pasta. One third grade class designed sweatshirts with their slogan for the 2020-2021 school year. Among the slogans about “hand sanitizer!” and “6 feet!” were “Zoom on. Mask time!” and the solemn slogan, “[t]his year was very hard.” Students in a fifth grade class wrote about family traditions like farfalla night, domino games, and beach days. Surprisingly, only two families made sourdough bread during the pandemic.
Our community came together to share beautiful stories, we learned so much about our community and how we spent this time apart. Students shared their voice, they taught us about their resilience. Our community demonstrated the many ways that they found hope and happiness during an exceptionally hard time. We achieved our goal; we came together to share these stories, but to also promote literacy and to keep it alive at our school. After we concluded our project, we were able to share with our librarian. Mrs. Mack was excited to know that she would get another layer of financial support for our students, right away she began to share the book titles and equipment that we could purchase for our students. We know that in the fall our students will walk into a library that offers them new titles, new stories and new adventures. Our hope is that our students can continue finding themselves in the books we share with them.
We may not have been able to gather together to celebrate this project in-person this year, but we are so excited for a time down the road to unearth this capsule project again together in-person. For now, we will use the same screens we depended on this year to share this project far and wide with our community and commemorate the bright moments of this challenging year.