For many, books and the fantastic worlds captured in their pages are one of life’s great pleasures. But when basic needs go unmet, leisure reading can seem like a luxury, despite the fact that it can open our minds to new perspectives, and help children excel in school.
To make reading feel less like a chore and more like a fun event, The Family Dinner Project recently held a “Summer Celebration” for children participating in a summer literacy program organized by the Centerboard community center in Lynn, MA.
For four weeks, kids ages 6-11 ate a steady diet of books and wholesome food. Three days a week, they met to play circle games, do phonics exercises, make crafts, and participate in activities related to their favorite book characters like King Bidgood, Amelia Bedelia, and Kapiti Plain. Mornings began with a “toast to the brain” (a drink of water to activate the brain for reading), and the day concluded with a healthy snack of fresh fruits or vegetables. Some vegetables were new to the kids, so we played sensory games (“Look at this green bean. What do you see/feel/smell/taste?”). Such games helped the veggies become less foreign and more fun.
Jan Plourde, the director of the program and Centerboard’s Education Coordinator, says that if families can associate good books with good food, reading will have a whole new appeal. Good food makes our bodies feel nourished, and good books light up our brains. Together, they create a wonderfully positive experience, giving us interesting ideas to discuss while we eat.
At the program’s celebration, the children prepared vegetables and salsa for their families, and The Family Dinner Project’s director, John Sarrouf, talked about how meals assist kids in building verbal skills. John noted that having discussions during dinner helps children expand their vocabularies, among many other benefits.
Undoubtedly, children in Lynn are interested in reading more, as the impressive progress of the literacy program’s four short weeks demonstrates. The Family Dinner Project is eager to join Lynners in the fight against illiteracy, and was thrilled to celebrate a program that connects words with food.