Read Aloud volunteers

Cynthia Shermeyer from Literacy Delaware shares ideas on reading to young English language learners at a gathering of Read Aloud Delaware volunteers in Georgetown. Read Aloud staff also updated the volunteers on new programs and coming events for the children’s literacy program.

While many of people are missing family and friends during the coronavirus pandemic, the staff at Read Aloud Delaware said they have been missing their volunteers.

“Our volunteers are the lifeblood of Read Aloud,” said Stacy Penaranda, Sussex County coordinator for the children’s literacy program. “The last thing we want is to lose contact with them during this tough time.”

So Penaranda and Read Aloud Delaware Executive Director James Spadola invited volunteers in Sussex County to join them for an outside get-together in Georgetown on Oct. 19 for a masked and socially-distanced chance to touch base and catch up.

Also invited to attend was Cynthia Shermeyer from Literacy Delaware.

Although the volunteers currently are not able to be reading in the 41 Head Starts programs, childcare centers, preschools and kindergartens where they normally read one-on-one to children, they are still interested in exploring reading tips and techniques.

Shermeyer offered the volunteers some strategies for interacting with children for whom English is a second language. She shared suggestions for making the best use of picture books, rhyming books and alphabet books with the young English language learners.

Spadola and Penaranda also updated those in attendance on Read Aloud Delaware’s new parent engagement program, LENA Start. The LENA Start program is designed to help parents and caregivers measure, improve and make the most of their verbal connections with young children.

The program uses current technology to count the adult words, conversation turns and ambient noise, such as televisions and other electronic devices, that a child hears in a day. The technology, dubbed a “talk pedometer” and worn by the child, provides feedback to parents and professionals to help close the language, learning and opportunity gaps for children.

LENA’s mission is to accelerate language development in children from birth to age 3. The LENA Start program offers parents a free 10-week series of virtual workshops in English and Spanish. Read Aloud Delaware launched the program statewide in October, with 10 families participating.

Penaranda also reported that Read Aloud Delaware has received a $2,000 grant from the Dollar General Literacy Fund. The monies will be used to provide the children’s book “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers to all 3- and 4-year-old students and their teachers at four reading sites in the county, including the Frankford Learning Center in Frankford, Children’s Place in Millsboro, Primeros Pasos in Georgetown and the Village Square Academy in Ocean View.

The tradition of Read Aloud Delaware’s decorated Christmas trees will continue this year with children’s book-themed trees at Grottos Grand Slam in Lewes and Left’s Alley & Eats, also in Lewes. Staff and volunteers will be decorating the trees in November, and donations to support Read Aloud will be accepted at both locations through Jan. 1.

Anyone interested in more information or in volunteering at Read Aloud Delaware should contact the Sussex County office at (302) 856-2527.

Families interested in participating in the LENA Start program or in obtaining more information should call (302) 656-5265 or email jspadola@readalouddelaware.org. Parents can register for an information session at www.readalouddelaware.org/parents.