F.R.E.D. Brings Families Together for Quality Time

Feb. 19, 2013 ~ Posters lined elementary school hallways, morning announcements revealed clues about F.R.E.D., and anticipation built until the official kick-off. The excitement that built before everyone knew who or what F.R.E.D. was continued throughout the Families Read Every Day (F.R.E.D.) program in January.

F.R.E.D., funded by the Olathe Public Schools Foundation, enabled every elementary student in the district to have a copy of the book "Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters" by Claudia Mills to take home and read with their family.

"I have never seen a program like this that puts a book in every child's hands," the author said during a visit to Meadow Lane Elementary School. "I've never seen a program that does this much to reach out to the community. It's extraordinary and wonderful."

Night after night, families like the Santistebans gathered to read a chapter of the book together.

"The first couple of days it was hard because everyone has different reading levels, but the older ones really started helping my second-grader," said Charlee Santisteban. "It's been fun watching them work together and want to spend the time together."

Despite busy schedules and various reading levels, Santisteban and her husband, Artie, made sure their family read together before bedtime. The whole family took turns reading a page at a time. She thinks they will continue reading books together.

"The response to the F.R.E.D. program has been tremendous," said Cynthia VonFeldt, executive director of the foundation. "Parents are reaching out to us, grateful for a program that not only helps their children learn to love reading, but also encourages families to spend quality time together."

Meadow Lane Elementary Principal Brian Lowe says the program was a success, both from a principal's standpoint and that of a parent.

"As a parent of a kindergartner and second-grader, it has been something we have enjoyed each night," he said. "There is nothing better than enjoying a good book together as a family.

"At a recent Meadow Lane Site Council meeting, parents shared that they have enjoyed the reading experience at home. It is something families have looked forward to each night."

School librarians noticed the students' enthusiasm in reading, especially other books by Mills. The author visited eight schools, and participated in three community events.

"I knew this project would be good, but it turned out even better than I anticipated," said Library Media/Instructional Technology Coordinator Donna Roper. "Having the author visit some of the schools enhanced the project. She was engaging and the students and staff enjoyed her presentations on writing. She brought the book alive for students."

The three-week F.R.E.D. event also included class discussions and daily instructional activities, as well as trivia questions posted on the foundation's website.

"I would say it has been hugely successful!" said Tara Payton, library media specialist at Madison Place Elementary. "What an awesome way to bring about community in Olathe with every elementary student reading the exact same book."

Mills, the author, was also excited about the outcome.

"I've been writing for 30 years and this is the nicest thing that's happened to me, having everyone read my book," she said.

Santisteban family enjoys F.R.E.D.

Artie and Charlee Santisteban’s family was among thousands in the district participating in the Families Read Every Day program. They liked the activity so much that they may select another book to read together.

Submitted photo
Madison Place teacher and student

Madison Place Elementary fourth-grade teacher Sherry Evilsizor and a student took a look at the activity book that accompanied “Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters.”

Photo by Marlene Colgan
Madison Place student ponders clue

Madison Place Elementary Principal Gary Stevenson helped students kick off the Families Read Every Day program by having students pick clues about the book, like this red bandana, from a basket. No one knew who or what F.R.E.D. was until later in the assembly.

Photo by Marlene Colgan
Author Claudia Mills and Meadow Lane library media specialist

“Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters” author Claudia Mills (left) and Meadow Lane library media specialist Mesha Slightom posed by a display of Mills’ books while their picture was taken for the school yearbook.

Photo by Marlene Colgan
The UMKC Lady Roos visited Bentwood

The University of Missouri-Kansas City women’s basketball team helped Bentwood Elementary School kick off its Families Read Every Day event.

Photo by Ann Kohn