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Elementary School Activities for Family Reading Night

by Molly Thompson

Family reading night is an excellent way for children and their parents to enjoy activities together at their school. Kids love to show Mom and Dad their school, and the entire family can rediscover the magic of reading books together. Choose a theme such as the continents, animals or favorite characters. Incorporate hands-on reading activities, such as finding hidden words, solving word mysteries and, of course, sitting down and reading as a family.

Flashlight Fun

Set up a pretend campground in the school gym or library. Include several shelves of age-appropriate books about camping, night-time activities or outdoor adventures. Ask each family to bring a blanket to spread out on the floor, along with their flashlights. Serve a simple camping-style meal when the families arrive, such as hot dogs, chips and marshmallows. After dinner, have them pick out a favorite book or story from those on display, then spread out their blankets at the "campsite." Dim the lights and let the families use their flashlights to read the books they selected. After a final story read by the principal, send families home with their new books and a construction paper "good camper" merit badge.

Slumber Party

A pajama party is great fun for younger elementary school students, with the added comfort of having their family by their side. Participants come to the reading night at school in their PJs, bringing a blanket or comforter for the floor, a flashlight and the little ones' favorite stuffed animals. Treat everyone to milk and cookies for a bedtime snack, then ask participants to get snuggled in for an evening of stories. Invite well-known adults from around town, such as the police chief, mayor or the principal, to come and each read a favorite bedtime story to the group. Pass out a new story for each family to enjoy before they go or take home with them.

World Traveler

Set up stations in several locations throughout the school. Give each child a pretend passport when they arrive for the evening. Start with the whole group in the gym or cafeteria: Present a short talk about some of the interesting and exciting places they will visit through stories that night. Divide the families into groups, and assign each group to start in a different reading country. At each one, they'll hear a story from a specific country or part of the world, then get a stamp or sticker in their passports. Sound a bell or make an announcement when it's time for families to travel to their next destination. By the time they've visited each reading country, their passports will be full.

Mystery Hunt

As the children check in for the reading night, give them each a magnifying glass, a small notebook and a pencil. Gather the group in a common area and tell them they're going to be reading detectives for the night. An adult dressed as a detective describes specific clues the readers must locate in books or posters around the school, then record in their notebooks. Make several sets of words or symbols into clues, then divide the kids by grade and send them on the appropriate hunt. Ask the adults to help guide them, but encourage the kids to find the clues themselves. When a group finds its entire set of clues, they will spell out the name of a favorite book.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

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