Chamisa to 'raise the roof'

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By Tris DeRoma

From 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Chamisa Elementary will be hosting probably one of the most important events a parent can attend to help in their child’s education.

The event will be held inside the school’s gym, and parents have the option to buy a pizza dinner.

Called “Readers Raise the Roof,” the event is doubling as an introduction to reading for students in pre-K through third grade, as well as a workshop for parents looking for ideas on how to keep their kids interest up in reading when they aren’t in school.

While the event is designed to be fun, there’s a serious motive behind it said Debbie Smith, the principal at Chamisa Elementary School.

“At the youngest stages, a child’s first and most important teachers are their parents,” she said. “What parents do their children model, so what we want parents to do is model these best practices.”

The program is just one part of an overall literacy initiative from the New Mexico Department of Education called “New Mexico Reads to Lead.” The NMPED built the program on federal statistics that emphasize the importance of having a child learn to read competently by third grade. In its promotional material on the program, the department cites an Annie E. Casey Foundation study that says students who can’t read well by the third grade are four times as likely to drop out of school before they reach 19 years old. Smith said when the program works correctly schools and parents can beat those statistical odds.

“We’ll do the teaching at school, if they do the practice at home,” she said, adding that just 20 minutes a day of reading is all that’s needed, whether that’s reading aloud, reading to each other or reading to themselves. Vocabulary building and comprehension are the two big goals of the program.

Chamisa Elementary will be one of the first elementary schools to have the event, with the others soon to follow.

Information about the programs will be made available on each school’s corresponding website.

Smith and her staff are excited about Thursday’s event, and have spent the week preparing for Thursday night. Tuesday, at lunch time, the K through 3 students were treated to a performance of “Raise the Roof Rap,” a rap they wrote and choreographed much to everyone’s amusement.

Thursday’s event will feature skits by the children on the joys of reading and tips on how to incorporate reading practice into a family’s chaotic schedule.

Families will also be sent home with kits and a “blueprint” they can use to chart their children’s progress and plan activities. Teachers at the event will be dressed in overalls and construction hats to further emphasize the “tools” and “blueprints” children need for learning how to read. Props were donated by Metzger’s, LA Home Improvement, Village Arts, and Aspen Copies.

“It’s not just a show… families participate,” Smith said. “We will be doing these skits to introduce them to these activities they can do at home to support reading.”

At the event, parents can also sign up for a reading challenge, where they will receive a free book and a library card to the Mesa Public Library. The challenge includes incentives for each milestone they achieve, including gift certificates, treats and door prizes donated by local businesses.

Sponsors of the event include Daniel’s Cafe, Ruby K’s, Time Out Pizza and Starbucks. The kits also include a tablecloth that can be made into a “reading tent” for kids and parents to read in.

While the main event starts at 6 p.m., parents that come at 5 p.m. can participate in a book swap, where they can donate a book and pick up a new one as well. There’s no charge, and age-appropriate books will be categorized by table for easy selection.

Smith also said parents can receive school library cards at the event and check books out of the school library as well.