• 82°

Parents foster childhood reading habits

A special event at St. Andrew Preschool on Wednesday promoted ideas parents could put to use to instill good reading habits in their children.

Wednesday’s Reading Fair involved about 40 parents from within the St. Andrew congregation and outside of it, according to St. Andrew Preschool co-director Jim Carnegie.

Many of the parents simply stopped by after they dropped their children off Wednesday morning, he said.

“The timing worked out great,” he said.

Preschool co-director Carol Carnegie said the fair was an expansion of the school’s typical parent group meeting.

“I decide to make it more interactive this time to get parents more involved,” she said.

Suffolk Public Library staff brought the Library2Go vehicle and shared more information on their programs.

Participants received free books, and some donated their own to the school’s November book drive to help homeless families in Hampton Roads through the organization ForKids.

Parents left with games intended to help teach their children the alphabet, spelling and rhyming.

“One of the precursors for children learning to read is learning words that rhyme,” Carol Carnegie said.

Preschool parent Maggie Stoup brought her 3-year-old therapy dog, Lonnie. Stoup said the dog is being trained to join the Suffolk Humane Society’s BARKS Program, in which children read to therapy dogs to practice and get comfortable with reading.

Suffolk Humane Society education volunteer Heather Noell explained how students responded to the program’s first preschool session at St. Andrew on Tuesday.

Children sat with two dogs and read “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Pigeon Needs a Bath!” and a book the kids had made themselves, “Leaping Learners, Leaping Learners, Who do you see?”

“It’s very effective,” she said. “We have children that come back over and over again, and you can tell the difference not just in their reading ability but in their confidence as well.”

Whether it’s reading aloud to the children and having them repeat what they hear, or having them point to words on a page, good reading habits start at home, Carol Carnegie said.

“Children learn reading on the laps of their parents,” she said. “I feel strongly that parents are the first teachers.”

Carrollton resident Angie Wallace described how she and her husband, Patrick Wallace, read to their children, Matthew, 3, Colin, 5, and Johnny, 8, every night before bedtime. She said her youngest likes Dr. Seuss, while her older sons really enjoy “Captain Underpants.”

“Our 8-year-old loves to read to his brothers and on his own, and I think that’s because they started at such a young age,” she said.