Friday, November 9, 2018

Family Literacy Fun Day inspires the fun of reading for young and old alike

By Briana Bizier

On a cold and rainy Saturday morning, children and their parents came together at the Windham Primary School to celebrate the written word. Hosted by Windham/Raymond Adult Education, the twelfth annual Family Literacy Fun Day showcased Maine authors and illustrators with stories to please readers, or pre-readers, of all ages. Three local authors presented their work to eager and appreciative audiences while the cafeteria offered snacks and a wide range of arts and crafts activities, including creating a miniature book, decorating a bookmark, and making a pine cone bird feeder. There was also a free swap for gently used books and a raffle with prizes that had been generously donated by local businesses and organizations.

We want to help spread the joy of literacy,” Cathy Giuffre-Renaud of Windham Adult Education said, explaining the motivation behind hosting the popular event. “Holding a book in your hand, there’s just nothing that compares to that!”

A book swap was among many of the activities
When my two little assistants and I arrived on the scene, Gorham author Cathryn Falwell was just beginning her presentation. First, Falwell used a page from her bookFeast for 10” to demonstrate the four colors used in printing - cyan, magenta, yellow and black. When she pulled each colored layer away from her picture, the crowd responded with appreciative “ohs” and “ahs.” Falwell also shared pictures of her studio and “treehouse” beside Frog Song Pond in Gorham. My little assistants were especially impressed by the pictures of turkeys. “The turkeys don’t go in the water” Falwell explained. “But sometimes, they go on the water!”

She shared a picture of an ice-covered Frog Song Pond hosting a flock of skating turkeys which made children and adults alike laugh. In addition to sharing pictures and explaining the printing process, Falwell invited the children in the crowd to participate in two interactive puppet shows as she read her books “Pond Babies” and “Turtle Splash!” both of which were selected to be part of Maine’s Raising Readers program. Falwell published her first book in 1991 and is currently working on her twenty-seventh work.

Maine author Tim Caverly also offered a presentation at Family Literacy Fun Day. A former Park Ranger, Caverly now lives in Millinocket. He has published nine books about Maine’s northern forest for children and adults and he travels widely to help spread the joy of reading and his love for the New England woods. In addition to his speaking engagements, Caverly and his Allagash Tails team has donated over 1,750 books to 145 schools in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Mary Morton Cowan, the author of over eighty articles for children, presented her latest adventure biography for middle grade readers, “Cyrus Field’s Big Dream: The Daring Effort to Lay the First Transatlantic Telegraph Cable.” Cowan specializes in telling exciting biographies and making history come to life for younger readers. My four-year-old assistant was especially delighted with the Morse code machine Cowan brought to the Family Literacy Fun Day. While he giggled manically as he sent out Morse code messages, I marveled at the size and weight of the transatlantic telegraph cable. For a generation raised with the convenience of satellites and cell phones, the magnitude of laying a telegraph cable on the ocean floor is quite impressive.

Local writer Sandy Warren had a table in the cafeteria to discuss her multi-sensory approach to memorizing the times tables. Developed when she was teaching her own children, Warren’s “Times to Remember” includes a CD, a workbook, and a storybook to help children learn multiplication. “They see the pictures, sing the songs, and do the exercises,” Warren explained. “It’s a fun way to learn multiplication.”

Rachel Church, a local “book artist,” also had a table in the cafeteria where she showed children and their parents several different ways to fold a single piece of paper into a multi-page book. My eight-year-old assistant was especially impressed when Church revealed these one-page books can hold a secret message when completely unfolded. She spent the next thirty minutes at the craft table making a book for her little brother while he returned to the Morse code machine to tap out further messages. By the time I finally rounded up both assistants, they’d chosen several new books, made books of their own, and discovered a new love for the antiquated technology of Morse code. Not bad for a rainy Saturday morning!

Free and open to the public, Windham Adult Education’s Family Literacy Fun Day was intended to help inspire a love of reading for all ages, from the smallest children to parents and grandparents who attended the event. Many local companies and organizations graciously donated supplies or raffle prizes to help make the event a success, including Lowe’s, Amato’s, Hannaford, Americorps, Bull Moose Music, Metayer Family Eye Care, People’s United Bank, BJ’s, the Windham Economic Development Corporation and the Maine Romance Writers.

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