UHCL, Freeman Library partner to foster reading and writing skills in small children

January 8, 2019 | Katherine Adams

Educators are always looking for new, creative ways to help small children become comfortable with reading and writing.  For Elaine Hendrix, Heather Pule and Roberta Raymond, all professors in University of Houston-Clear Lake’s College of Education, facilitating a partnership with Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library so that future educators can help parents of small children fall in love with books is a step toward making that happen.

“The Freeman Library is such an excellent resource, and after meeting with (Assistant Branch Librarian Youth Services) Elizabeth Hunt and (Branch Manager) Christina Thompson, we decided to find a way to work together,” Hendrix said.

“Parents have already been bringing their children to the library to introduce them to reading,” she said. “We teach future educators reading methods classes. Students need the hands-on practice in the field, doing community-based, experiential learning. Setting up workshops for parents and our students to work together seemed like a perfect fit.”

There is so much information about how best to help a child learn, it can become overwhelming. “We often get questions from parents and caregivers who want to help their child along as they grow and learn, and they’re not exactly sure how to do that,” Thompson said. “As a library, our goal is to connect our community with the resources and information they need. We also believe that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher.”

Thompson said the library jumped at the opportunity to share Freeman Library’s resources with UH-Clear Lake’s expert faculty and rising educators. “We have already heard feedback that our families are finding the information they learned about child development to be very empowering,” she said.

“We have done three parent trainings, including a writing workshop for children ages 3 to 5,” Raymond said. “We explained to parents what emergent writing looks like, and gave them information packets. We suggested ways to encourage writing and let them know that those scribbles they’re seeing really mean something.”

Assistant Professor of Reading and Language Arts Heather Pule presented a workshop to parents about oral language development. “We discussed how oral language starts developing at birth and how it continues through everyday talk, through a baby’s environment, and through reading from birth,” Pule said. “It was wonderful to be able to talk with parents about something so important for their child’s development.”

Hendrix added, “We have done a reading workshop for 18 month to 3-year-olds, sharing a book and doing hand games to go along. We demonstrated how to be dramatic when reading aloud, and how much it benefits children to have something read over and over again.”

She said that they’d also discussed how much can be taught from a simple picture book, and how to go deeper than the story to encourage verbal interaction.

“It’s the goal of the Children’s Department to support families, child care providers and communities to help every child enter school ready to learn to read,” Hunt said. “Our partnership with UHCL connects local families to experts in early literacy that they might not otherwise have access to. Any community connection the library can make that supports families as they raise their children is a useful one.”

Raymond said creating the connection between future educators and the librarians at Freeman helps tap into each other’s resources. “We are certifying our students to become early childhood-6th grade teachers, and they have to be prepared to work at all levels since they’ll be certifying at all levels,” she said. “Both sides can benefit greatly from this experience.”

 For more information about UHCL’s Interdisciplinary Studies B.S. with Core Subjects EC-6, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/interdisciplinary-studies-bs-ec-6-early-childhood-concentration. To find out more about UHCL’s Reading M.S. with Reading Specialist Certificate, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/degrees/reading-ms-reading-specialist-certificate.