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Read Aloud Delaware hosts masked, distanced, outdoor volunteer get-together

Delaware News Desk
Cynthia Shermeyer from Literacy Delaware shares ideas on reading to young English language learners at a gathering of Read Aloud Delaware volunteers in Georgetown. Read Aloud staff also updated the volunteers on new programs and coming events for the children’s literacy program.

Missing their volunteers, the staff at Read Aloud Delaware, including Executive Director James Spadola and Stacy Penaranda, Sussex County coordinator for the children’s literacy program, invited volunteers in Sussex County to join them Oct. 19 in Georgetown for a masked and socially distanced outdoor get-together to touch base and catch up.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Read Aloud,” said Penaranda. “The last thing we want is to lose contact with them during this tough time.”

In attendance was Cynthia Shermeyer from Literacy Delaware. Although volunteers are currently unable to read in the 41 Head Starts, child care centers, preschools and kindergartens where they normally read one-on-one to children, they are still interested in exploring reading tips and techniques.

Shermeyer offered the volunteers some strategies for interacting with children for whom English is a second language. She shared suggestions for making the best use of picture books, rhyming books and alphabet books with the young English language learners.

Spadola and Penaranda also updated attendees on Read Aloud Delaware’s new parent engagement program, LENA Start, which is designed to help parents and caregivers measure, improve and make the most of their verbal connections with young children.

The program uses current technology to count the adult words, conversation turns and ambient noise, like televisions and other electronic devices, that a child hears in a day. The technology, dubbed a “talk pedometer” and worn by the child, provides vital feedback to parents and professionals to help close the language, learning and opportunity gaps for children.

LENA’s mission is to accelerate language development in children up to age 3. The LENA Start program offers parents a free, 10-week series of virtual workshops in English and Spanish. Read Aloud Delaware launched the program statewide in October with 10 families participating. 

Penaranda also reported Read Aloud Delaware received a $2,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Fund, which provide the children’s book “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers to all three and four-year-old students and their teachers at four reading sites in the county, including the Frankford Learning Center in Frankford, Children’s Place in Millsboro, Primeros Pasos in Georgetown and the Village Square Academy in Ocean View.

The tradition of Read Aloud Delaware’s decorated Christmas trees will continue this year with children’s book-themed trees at Grottos Grand Slam and Left’s Alley and Eats, both in Lewes. Staff and volunteers will decorate the trees in November and donations to support Read Aloud will be accepted at both locations through Jan. 1, 2021.

Families interested in participating in the LENA Start program or in obtaining more information should call 656-5265 or email jspadola@readalouddelaware.org. Parents can register for an information session at readalouddelaware.org/parents.

For more on volunteering with Read Aloud Delaware, call the Sussex County office at 856-2527.