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Ready, Set, Read! helps families read together

Ready, Set, Read! staff and board volunteers attend the 2019 Book Bash fundraiser.
(Jeff Coté / Ready, Set, Read!)

Samantha Sosa felt a weight lifted off of her shoulders when she realized that all four of her children had grown a love for reading. It was something she had always hoped to instill in them to foster their interest in learning other subjects. When she came across Ready, Set, Read! in July, she leaped at the chance to transform their passion into a foundation for successful learning.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” said Sosa, whose children attend Rosemont Early Education Center in Central Los Angeles. “I just needed … to know that there’s always a better way to do things.”

Sosa, 37, has attended three virtual workshops through Ready, Set, Read, a nonprofit project of Community Partners, since the organization pivoted from in-person to online sessions in response to schools moving to online instruction. She said she’s always read to her children, but the workshops have taught her to focus on the “teaching moments” that arise. It was after her first workshop that she learned to encourage her children with positive reinforcement, which inspired her 4-year-old son to excitedly begin practicing to write his name and guess what the characters in his books might do next.

“It was like something clicked — he suddenly was asking me to read with him and was so interested in the stories,” Sosa said. “When I use what we learned [in the workshops] … so far, doing homework isn’t so bad.”

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Sosa isn’t the only parent Ready, Set, Read has helped guide since its inception in 1999. The organization leads bilingual workshops for parents on read-aloud techniques that engage children under age 6 and build their critical literacy skills. The organization focuses its efforts in under-resourced communities of Los Angeles and offers its partner schools classroom lending libraries, making new books accessible for children, teachers and parents. So far, Ready, Set, Read has expanded its outreach to more than 250 schools, according to executive director Deb Burgin. It aims to support 40 this year.

Ana Villaseñor, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Roscoe Elementary School in Sun Valley, has noticed the same love for reading in her students as Sosa noticed in her son after getting involved with Ready, Set, Read. Parents at Roscoe have attended workshops organized by Ready, Set, Read, aimed to guide them as they support their children’s literacy development. Using techniques learned in the workshops, parents have been able to help their children increase their critical thinking skills and form bonds through literacy, Villaseñor said.

“The workshops remind parents that they’re their child’s first and most important teachers,” Villaseñor said. “They empower the parents to recognize the important role they play in their child’s academic success starting in preschool.”

The workshops teach parents to implement learning techniques that can be used in any context. Parents learn to start dialogues with their children about their surrounding environments by asking them how their day was, making up stories or simply describing the weather. Heightening children’s awareness of their surroundings will increase their imagination and literacy, Burgin said.

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“The program is helping me know there’s a different way to read,” Sosa said. “I used to read and [my son] would start playing around — he wasn’t listening. But then I started to change my voice for each character, and he just sat down and started listening.”

Aside from its parent-oriented curriculum, what sets Ready, Set, Read apart is its focus on literacy as a foundation for all subjects, including math, science and art, Burgin said. The program spreads the most foundational information among three workshops that focus on those areas; however, Ready, Set, Read has additional in-depth workshops on techniques and preparing children for kindergarten. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the organization is currently holding workshops over Zoom for all parents who wish to attend.

Sosa said helping her kids with at-home learning has been difficult, but implementing techniques she’s learned from Ready, Set, Read has made it easier. Sosa said she looks forward to learning more from future workshops as it will help her engage with her children and other parents while campuses remain closed this fall.

“In the situation we’re in now, it’s a huge help,” Sosa said. “I struggled at the beginning of [at-home learning] … but once you hear from other people about trying different things, it’ll get better.”

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This article is part of A Guide to Storytime, L.A. Times Reading by 9’s 2020 parent reading guide. It was produced in partnership with local literacy nonprofit Ready, Set, Read! Check out the rest of the project here.


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