Feature stories

Why did the pre-K students cross the road?

To get to their local library for a different connection to literacy

Liam O'Malley and April Rosario lead pre-K students to the library. Miller Photography

Teacher Liam O'Malley (left) and paraprofessional April Rosario lead pre-K students from PS 147 in Brooklyn from their school on their weekly trip to the library.

Paraprofessional Rosa Fernandez helps students choose a favorite story. Miller Photography Paraprofessional Rosa Fernandez helps students choose a favorite story.

Every Wednesday morning, four pre-K classes at PS 147 cross the street to Brooklyn’s Bushwick Public Library for story hour.

On a recent visit, “Maria Had a Little Llama” cast its magical spell as rapt listeners followed the llama’s adventures at school in Peru. As author Angela Dominquez told the story, her colorful illustrations filled the big screen in the library’s storytelling room.

While the four pre-K teachers are all storytellers in their classrooms, Sandra Gomez said the weekly trip to the library offers a “different and special way of focusing on literacy and an opportunity for the children to make a connection to the library.”

For three years, the pre-K classes have been forging that connection, sometimes enjoying performances and music but mostly stories. The children feel right at home in the sunny and welcoming library and settle down quickly for a new adventure.

Dominguez delighted the children when she read from another book, “Como Se Dice,” and they translated agua with shouts of “water!” and amigo to “friend.” Even more fun was watching Dominguez draw the animals the children request as she tells them that illustrations help explain ideas.

Teacher Liam O’Malley called their attention to the fact that Dominguez in her drawings was using the geometric forms they were learning about in class — circles for bodies and triangles for ears.

It takes a lot of patience to bundle 55 4- and 5-year-olds into coats and scarves and mittens on a cold February morning and get them safely across the street and back, but it’s a labor of love for the teachers and their paras.

“Not all children grow up in a literacy-rich environment,” teacher Nancy Lee points out. “By bringing them to the local public library, they have hands-on experience in an interactive and caring environment. It also provides opportunities to develop the skills of listening, asking questions, taking turns and following instructions.”

Karen Alford, the UFT’s vice president for elementary schools, stressed the importance of “community partnerships and neighborhood resources in building literacy programs in our schools.”

Back in their classrooms, the children discussed the day’s stories, making connections to their own lives and to other stories they have read.

Bright bulletin boards and posters emphasize and highlight diversity at PS 147, which has the city’s first Japanese dual language program. The morning stories were linked to the theme of multiculturalism as well, taking the children to a Peruvian school and helping them learn Spanish words.

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