Pennville Elementary School fifth graders Lane Chapman and Austin Wolfe react as they check out one of the approximately 400 books that were available for students to choose from Thursday during the school’s literacy night. The event was the culmination of a program in which each family in the school receives a copy of a book and is encouraged to read it together. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
Pennville Elementary School fifth graders Lane Chapman and Austin Wolfe react as they check out one of the approximately 400 books that were available for students to choose from Thursday during the school’s literacy night. The event was the culmination of a program in which each family in the school receives a copy of a book and is encouraged to read it together. (The Commercial Review/Ray Cooney)
PENNVILLE — For the first literacy night several years ago, about 30 people showed up.
On Thursday, the school’s gym was packed with students and their families.
In its ninth year, Pennville Elementary School’s literacy night is part of a program that encourages reading, not only for students but for the entire family.
“By the end of the second year we outgrew the cafeteria,” said library assistant Brenda Cash. “And then our parents just took to it. They really enjoy it.”
“This is cool, because they’re all happy to be here.”
Literacy night was the culmination of the program in which each family in the school receives a copy of a selected book. This year, as in the inaugural year, that selection was E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web.”
Families read the book together in preparation for literacy night, which includes a variety of activities based on the book.
Children were able to get their picture taken with farm scenery and received an activity bag that included coloring pages. After sharing a meal, Cash led the children in creating a spider web out of popsicle sticks and string.
It’s an event families have been waiting for since August.
“I’ve had people ever since probably the first couple weeks (of school asking), ‘When’s family literacy night?’ said Rex Pinkerton, who is in his first year as principal at Pennville. “They’ve asked that continuously.”
 The night also gives parents an idea of what their children do in the classroom every day. That’s because on literacy night it’s the parents, not the students, who take the Accelerated Reader test on the assigned book.
“This is a normal, everyday thing for them,” said Jason Murphy, whose son Justice is a fifth grader. “It gives an opportunity for the parents to come and experience that also.”
It’s an idea that sprung from the One Book, One Chicago program that began in 2001.
The event, initiated by Chicago Public Library, encouraged residents to read the same book — “To Kill a Mockingbird” — to create a city-wide book club. The program sparked Cash’s excitement because the Harper Lee classic is her favorite book.
She brought the idea to Pennville, and then-principal Larry Wilson gave the green light.
“It brings our families all together,” said Cash of the event that is sponsored by the school’s parent-teacher organization. “The majority of them do share a book together. They look forward to it.
“They were so ready,” she added of the day she passed out the books. “Our kids love to read.”
To continue to promote that love, the evening closes with a game of bingo. Winning children head to a row of tables at one end of the gym lined with about 400 books, enough for each to go home with at least one.
Some spent time scanning the tables for just the right titles while others, like fifth grader Nova Caylor, had already scoped out the selections and knew just want they wanted. Caylor went straight for “Mean Ghouls” from the “Rotten Apple” series.
“I have all of them except for this one,” she said. “This is a very good series.”
Why?
“I just like reading,” Caylor said.