‘Reading Restaurants’ Serve Spaghetti, Books to Pre-k Students, Parents

Pre-kindergarteners ordered up books and spaghetti during their school’s Reading Restaurant event this spring. The three-course meal gave students a menu of books to choose from – most with an animal or safari theme.

The 10 elementary schools participating in the Reading Restaurant initiative transformed their libraries, cafeterias or music rooms into safari-themed restaurants to create a fine dining experience for one-on-one interaction between a mother or father and their young child. Students left the event with two books to continue reading at home.

“The Reading Restaurant initiative helps us promote literacy development that is especially important to ensure we get the students off to a good start in their studies,” Barron principal Lidia Anguiano. “We wanted to promote not only literacy but also the parental engagement and the social and emotional aspect of learning.”

While some campus selected to be exclusively father’s or father figures to participate, Barron selected moms to celebrate Mother’s Day.

“It’s a wonderful experience. I haven’t had much one-on-one time with her because I have a newborn, so it’s nice to sneak it in,” said Victoria Sepehri, giving daughter Sophia a quick squeeze.

The pair finished up their salads while reading “Brown Bear, Brown Bear: What do you do?” Asked if “Brown Bear” was a favorite, Sophia smiled and gave a strong nod.

“I like that we get to come here and read,” she said.

The safari theme covered nearly every inch of Barron’s music room with natural sounds from rainforest further setting the mood. Snakes and other jungle animals peered from the colored butcher paper designs – giving students an eyeful. The principal, teachers and PTA volunteers continued the theme by dressing in safari outfits to served up the meal and books.

“This was a wonderful activity because I brought together not only the students but also the teachers, PTA and it creates for a very positive environment for everyone involved,” Anguiano said.

At Powell Elementary, the event focused on engaging father’s in reading with their child.

“Literacy skills are learned at an early age and it is important for fathers and father figures to understand the role they play as one of their child’s first teachers,” said Powell principal
Andrew Veilleux.

Veilleux felt it important to drawn in dads because Powell serves a high concentration of military families and, with deployments, many dads don’t get as much one-on-one time with their children.

“This event gave fathers a chance to read to their children one on one in a social setting and portrayed these men as strong educational leaders willing to participate in a special reading event,” he said. “Hopefully, this event encourages fathers to stay involved in their child’s learning as a reading partner.”

Story by Reneé De Santos / Photos Leonel Monroy & EPISD