Leona Cox Elementary school students laugh as they try to be the first to "swat" a word during a camping-themed literacy night on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

‘Camp Cougar’ promotes literacy among students, families at Leona Cox

More than 300 students and their families gathered at Leona Cox Community School Wednesday night to participate in the school’s first Family Literacy Night.

“We wanted to provide an opportunity for our entire community to come together,” said Heather Drew, assistant principal of Leona Cox Elementary. “One thing we wanted is something that was interactive for both parents and students.”

The free event provided literacy opportunities for families through fun games and activities in the night’s theme of “Camp Cougar.”

Classrooms were decorated to look like campsites with pop-up tents for cozy reading, roaring campfires displayed on Flat Panels, word search fishing games and additional camp-based activities.

“Our theme so Camp Cougar so maybe the next time they go camping they will learn to take a book with them,” fourth grade teacher Glenn Endo said.

The event also drew families in with its offering of free dinner for all who attended.

“We are a Title 1 site so 67 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch,” Drew said. “Being able to provide this [a free dinner] for them was important to me and is a really big deal.”

Drew said teachers collaborated to select their own classroom reading and writing games based on grade-level standards.

“We wanted activities that would engage our students,” said Special Day Class teacher Jillian Altfest, whose classroom included stations that focused on language skills, art and cooking.

Leona Cox Elementary school students read books inside a tent set up in a classroom for a camping-themed literacy night on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Third and fourth grade teachers included word puzzles, plural and singular word searches, scrabble and games on iPads to encourage student and parent literacy.

“A lot of it was collaborated, we came up with things together and made it fun,” Endo said. “Our goal is to get kids interested in reading more and getting enjoyment out of reading.”

Additional classroom activities included fishing for phonics, bear s’more vowel searches, QR code campfire stories and a competitive bear paw word search for kindergarten and first grade students; online games and bookmark marking for second grade students; and iPad reading passages and questions around a paper-mache campfire for fifth and sixth grade students.

“We are book nerds,” said Michelle Harbich whose two sons Andreas and Jakob are in second and third grade at the school. “I’m looking forward to just having fun with my kids. I don’t always get the opportunity to go out to school events with them.”

Students, parents, and teachers at Leona Cox Elementary “fish” with magnets for sight words during a camping-themed literacy night on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Camp Cougar included library associates from the Santa Clarita Public Libraries who passed out information about the libraries’ free events, gave away bookmarks and invited families to sign up for a free library card for city’s three libraries.

The library associates also referred families to the library’s free online database for access to books for research, school projects or casual reading.

“All of our online databases are free, we can’t stress that enough,” Library Associate Julia Carrillo said.

Wendy Cockerell, who went to Leona Cox herself in the 70s and 80s, said she and her daughter Jaina, 7, always try to support the school in any way they can.

“We try to go to school activities as often as we can to support our school,” Cockerell said. “She loves to read and she loves her school and we want to support it.”

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