Encourage reading, make an investment in the future

Being able to read is something many of us tend to take for granted, even though it is an integral part of our daily lives.

Literacy is at the core of our world. Without it, we have difficulty communicating, learning, working, driving, shopping and other tasks and aspects of our everyday lives.

That’s why it is important to encourage the growth of our reading skills throughout our lives, especially beginning at a young age. Fortunately, in Weirton, there is a program aimed at doing just that, while involving the entire community.

Friday morning, Weirton Elementary will be launching this year’s Read With Me Weirton program, which will run through Feb. 13.

Read With Me Weirton is designed to encourage literacy in our youngest residents. It also encourages families to spend time together and the community to show support for our youth. This is the fifth year for the program, which has received tremendous support from the city, and I’m certain the same will be true this year.

Each child is provided with a copy of a selected book, as well as a reading schedule and educational materials. Everyone reads the same chapter each night, and students will participate in special themed activities while at school.

Previous books have included “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Lemonade War,” “The Enormous Egg” and “The World According to Humphrey.” Each year begins and ends with a special assembly for the kids, and there is even the chance for prizes.

For the record, yes, I do know what this year’s book is. No, I will not be telling anyone. That’s a secret that stays quiet until it is unveiled on Friday.

The only thing I will say is the book is part of a series from a pretty well-known author, so it is my hope the pupils and their families enjoy their experience reading together and take the time to pick up the other books.

Positive reinforcement is used as a way to encourage the kids to continue on with their literary adventure, but this program is more than just about reading.

Having families read together is just as important as the actual reading. It creates bonding opportunities for families, and helps to lay a groundwork for future relationships. Families come in all forms and sizes these days, but spending time together and providing support for each other helps to prepare each of us for the years ahead.

I can’t begin to tell you how beneficial it was for me growing up and having parents and grandparents who took time out of their busy schedules to read to me and with me in my early years. Who knows where I would be without that early encouragement?

The Weirton community also plays a role through the establishment of “Reading Stopping Points” — where businesses will post a sign in their window and kids will know they can come in to earn a prize ticket. Others in the community often are invited to visit the school to serve as guest readers or take part in other activities, and some help by contributing prizes.

So, this is serving as a head’s up to the Weirton community. Get ready to read. Get ready to spend time with your students. Encourage them. You never know the kind of effect it can have on them and their future.

Let this program be an example for the years ahead, whether it be their schoolwork or other learning opportunities.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)