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Houston Lower Elementary School encouraging early literacy through Family Reading Night

HOUSTON – The Houston Lower Elementary School offered parents and students alike a fun reading experience through their Family Reading Night.

The program is a monthly program held in the gymnasium at the lower. Parents can bring their kids and there is always someone there who will read to them. The event also coincides with the PTO meeting every month, and parents are urged to attend those as well.

The event was started in 2018, and according to one of the program’s coordinators, Tina Tabb, it has seen a steady increase in attendance since then. The average number of attendees varies by month, however.

“Our participation has increased since starting last year,” said Tabb. “In August of this year, we had about 20 families and December had approximately 46 families.”

December’s program saw the children and parents being read “The Night Before Christmas” by none other than Santa Claus himself. It was a full event, and they had to bring more chairs out at a steady pace.

The program is funded using Title I money.

“Title I funds are used to support Family Reading Nights to promote parental involvement and family engagement,” said Tabb. “Emily Peel (HLES Librarian) and I collaborate on ideas and activities for Family Reading Nights and with the help of the school our vision is accomplished.”

At the moment, Family Reading Nights are only for families and students who attend Houston Lower Elementary.

The program’s purpose is to promote early literacy and encourage children to not only read, but to read as a family.

“Our goal is to bring awareness to the importance of early childhood reading, build relationships that foster a love for reading with our families, promote continued support at home and empower our parents so they can help their child be more successful in school,” she said.

The program uses various techniques including fun, reading-based activities and giving away free books to try and achieve this goal.

According to Tabb, early literacy is extremely important, and it builds the foundation for the child’s entire education.

“Early literacy is important because early exposure can help children learn to make real life connections to text, help them use their imagination and creativity, help build curiosity which leads to deeper thinking, can increase their ability to ask questions that can build on communication skills, help acquire problem solving skills, help to learn that letter sounds are connected with print and so much more,” she said. “Starting at birth, students who are read to consistently, have been exposed to over a million words before starting kindergarten! Having an early start creates greater chances of success in school and prevents loss of learning later.”

There are ways that the community can help achieve the goals of the program as well. Book donations, volunteering to read to the students and donating resources are the main ways that help can be provided. Local restaurants and businesses can also offer incentives for families to attend.

The program is still relatively new, but there is no limit to the potential of what can be achieved.

“In the future, my hope is that through our reading nights, we can build on parent workshops that allow families to work right beside our teachers with literacy activities and create ideas that will help their child at home,” she said. “These efforts can lead to bridging gaps and helping to clarify any misconceptions families may have with literacy. Reading is the best gift we can give our children! Because we truly believe this, we will do what we can to help and will continue supporting our parents and students in this area.”

The next Family Reading Night is scheduled for February, but an exact date has yet to be set.

CDF hosted inaugural meeting of Houston Council of the Arts

HOUSTON – The Houston Council of the Arts held their inaugural meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 10 in the new CDF building on the square.

The Council of the Arts is a non-profit organization who will be responsible for getting the recently-purchased theater off of the ground.

The people heading up the council are Chickasaw Development Foundation Director Sean Johnson and Janet Coker, who has directed many plays for Houston High School. The group will also attempt to bring back the community theater, and eventually have it land in the theater.

The issue is, renovations are not free. That is where the council steps in. They are responsible for finding fund raising opportunities and raising as much money as possible for the project. This was one of the topics covered at the meeting. Among the options mentioned, the main one was a spring musical.

Johnson addressed the council about plans for the theater. He said that he would like to take a simple yet stylistic approach, and he also said that he hopes to have it operational in some capacity by summer 2020.

They also discussed some of the attractions that could be housed within the theater’s walls. Among them included plays and musicals, movie screenings, concerts, kids theater camps, local art galleries and many others. Johnson said that musicians from the 80’s such as John Conlee, who he named, would often tour small towns and that they frequent New Albany. He also said that the rights to older movies can be purchased cheaply, and he estimated that they usually range around $150-$200. However, they did say that plays would be the main focus.

The theater does not only offer space, however, it also offers opportunity. One group who stands to gain from the project is local students. They can be involved by displaying their artwork at a gallery or participating in the community theater productions or any other numerous ways that may arise in the future. The council discussed working with the schools to make this possible when the theater is in working order.

Some other fund raising options discussed included selling the naming rights to the theater, corporate donations and sponsorships, individual and family scholarships, a GoFundMe page and also raffles and auctions. Johnson also mentioned that New Albany was able to secure some appropriations from Jackson for their theater renovation project, and that he would love for Houston to be afforded the same opportunity.

“I think it is an exciting opportunity,” said Houston Alderlady Kellie Atkinson, who attended the meeting.

The theater will have a lot of work that will need to be done, but Johnson said the first step is to clean it up. After that, then the real work can begin. He said that it will need updated electricity and plumbing as well as some general beautification. There will also have to be something done about the air conditioning/heating in the building, but they will cross that bridge when they reach it. For the moment, it is not a great concern. They are hoping to hit the ground running and not let up until it is done though.

“I want to build the train as its moving down the track,” said Johnson.

Houston trustees seek $9.25 million bond issue to upgrade safety, infrastructure

HOUSTON --The Houston School District School Board Thursday night, Dec. 12, approved a resolution of intent to issue $9.25 million in general obligation bonds for upgrades in student safety “indoors and out” and infrastructure improvements in district schools, Superintendent Tony Cook said this week.

Trustees also approved a resolution setting a special district-wide election Tuesday, March 3 on the matter. Sixty percent approval is required for passage.

The district is in good financial shape; it does not have any open general obligation bonds, the superintendent said.

Trustees voted 5-0 to approve both resolutions. The action came during a 6 p.m. special called meeting.

The superintendent said if approved, proceeds from the bond issue would not be used to construct any new buildings. The district currently has five schools serving about 1,800 students.

“These funds will be used strictly to upgrade security and infrastructure concerns. We will not be building new buildings or athletic facilities. To fully appreciate the proposed upgrades, a person will have to actually be in our buildings or be able to see the new roofs,” the superintendent said.

A future article will give more details of the improvements which would be funded by the proposed bond issue.

In other action during the meeting, trustees voted to accept a donation from GCA Services Group for $1,200 given to the High School Anchor Club for helping to clean the stadium and the gymnasium after ballgames.

According to Internet sources, GCA Services Group, Inc., a subsidiary of ABM Industries, is a leading provider of facility services in the education and commercial industries, specializing in facilities maintenance, janitorial services, grounds management, vehicle services and outsourced workforce solutions. With over 37,000 employees in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, GCA is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio.