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Pine Plains student Hannah Wuenst enjoyed an Egyptian-themed treat with her younger brother from the comfort of her home as part of Virtual Family Literacy Week. Photo submitted

Students ‘Read like an Egyptian’ for Family Literacy Week

PINE PLAINS — Not even the school district’s closure could stop Pine Plains teachers from celebrating a much-loved tradition like Family Literacy Week with the students at Cold Spring Early Learning Center. Though they were unable to physically hold the long-awaited event at Cold Spring this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers collaborated to bring the event online, holding a week-long Virtual Family Literacy Week inclusive of Cold Spring students as well as Seymour Smith Intermediate Learning Center students and their families. 

Tying into the district’s Pick a Reading Partner Program, the Family Literacy Night program typically offers an educational night of family-friendly activities promoting literacy. When it became apparent that Cold Spring wouldn’t be able to host the event in-person this year due to the health crisis, Susan Poole-Di Salvo, a first-grade teacher at Cold Spring and one of two coordinating teachers for Virtual Family Literacy Week, said teachers decided they still wanted to hold a literacy event for students.

“Having this event be week-long gives families the time and flexibility to navigate and participate in activities at their convenience during this already busy time in our lives,” Poole-Di Salvo said.

Running from Monday, April 27, through Friday, May 1, students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth were able to complete the Virtual Family Literacy Week activities at home. With “Read Like an Egyptian” selected as this year’s theme, activities were posted throughout the week on the “Cold Spring Early Learning Center,” “Pine Plains Elementary PTA” and “Seymour Smith ILC” Facebook pages. Coordinated by Poole Di-Salvo and Cold Spring Reading and Special Education Teacher Alisa Hinsch, this year’s medley of educational activities featured Pine Plains teachers taking part in read alouds, dances, art tutorials, scavenger hunts, obstacle courses and even a virtual field trip through ancient Egypt.

As a way of introducing district families to Virtual Family Literacy Week, Poole-Di Salvo and Hinsch kicked off the week with a virtual assembly to keep everyone informed of the week of activities ahead of them; they also thanked families for their participation with a closing assembly at the end of the week. From guessing “Where in Pine Plains is the Egyptian?” with Seymour Smith teacher Jennifer Chase and making an Egyptian themed snack with Hinsch to joining a dance along with Cold Spring teacher Maureen Blackburn and solving a brain power virtual puzzle with Cold Spring teacher Michelle Palmieri, the students had an ample variety of activities available to them for each day of the week.

As a whole, Poole-Di Salvo said the event received a tremendously positive response from the school community with a great many students participating in the activities with their siblings and family members.

“It seems that the shift online has been positive,” she said. “As we all know, being with one another face-to-face is preferred, but the district and families have come together to make this experience positive. Our district has used the resources they have been given to make this a positive experience for children the best they can.”

Given the number of families that posted photos and shared their enjoyment via feedback and posts on the “Pine Plains Moms and Dads” Facebook page, Poole-Di Salvo was pleased to observe families enjoying themselves while participating in some of the activities with their children.

“In a time of such uncertainty, it was nice to see the families so actively involved and sharing student interaction in a positive way,” she said.

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