Families Reading Without Limits

Dec. 21, 2013 @ 10:38 AM

Reading Without Limits is an innovative approach to get parents engaged in their children’s education while encouraging physical activity.

Piloted in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in October, Reading Without Limits is a community book project where pages of a children’s book are posted along trails in the community for families to walk and read together.
Carla Smith, parent engagement specialist for CHCCS’s Parent University, came up with the idea for reading walks when considering ways to get reading into the community.
“It’s a great way to get the family up and moving and to get them to read with their kids,” Smith said. “The community seemed surprised by it. The parents really like it. They’re enjoying it.”
Without any advertising, parents and children have been reading and walking together. At the end of the walk, children fill out a card indicating that they completed the trail and that ensures that they get a free copy of the book in English or Spanish.
Smith said that several cards have come back with notes from parents on them, including one that said, “thank you for a wonderful surprise.”
Part of the surprise is that Reading Without Limits has not been formally advertised in the schools.
“It’s not a school project. It’s a project to increase parent engagement, family engagement,” Smith explained. “I really want parents to be engaged, to be connected and committed to their kids’ learning and their kids’ education. The purpose is to get families and students engaged in reading outside of the classroom and moving.”
The books were selected by children. On the back of the cards at the end of the walks is a question students have to answer. Smith said the questions allow the children to connect with the book either personally or through their heritage.
The first book was “Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox. The current book is “Grandma’s Gift” by Eric Velasquez and the next book is “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats.
The initial books for the project were given by the Chapel Hill public library and posted on trails by high school students in the Blue Ribbon Youth Leadership Institute in Henry Anderson Park in Carrboro and the Rogers Road, South Estes and Hargraves communities in Chapel Hill.
“It’s an exciting project that the high school students love,” Smith said. “It’s their big service project of the year. We’re also encouraging students to give back to their communities.”
While Flyleaf Books provides the books at a discounted cost, Smith said that once laminating costs of the book pages is factored in “it’s not a cheap project.”
Smith explained that with books delivered to the schools for children to take home, it also shows teachers that some parents are reading with their children.
“I want (teachers) to see that these parents are doing it and the children are reading at least one book with someone,” she said.
About 50 books have been given to children for participating in Reading Without Limits, a quarter of the 200-book goal. Smith added that with each book sent home is the paperwork for a library card.
“We are really excited about it and I’m hoping that people will go out and participate in it,” Smith said.

For more information, contact Smith at (919) 918 – 2170 ext. 24006 or cmsmith@chccs.k12.nc.us.