Children learn new ways to enjoy reading

Junior early childhood education majors Shelby Breckwoldt and Ashley Rivet read "The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear" while also implementing greater than, less than and equal to concepts. Jennifer Dettwiller/The Lion's Roar

The department of teaching and learning participated for the fourth time in “Once Upon a Time in the Park.”

The event was held at the Michael J. Kenney Recreation Center on Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. with activities that included a magic show, face painting and different literacy activities for children to take part in. Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education Dr. Debra Jo Hailey explained the meaning and opportunities the event gives to children and their families.

“‘Once Upon a Time in the Park’ is a multi-agency collaboration,” said Hailey. “So, it’s with Tangi Parish Schools, Tangi Parish Early Childhood Community Network and Southeastern Louisiana University along with some special sponsors like the Louisiana Early Childhood Association and some of our business partners. We decided to do it because we want to advocate for young children, and we recognize that literacy in the early years is a foundation for being able to read and being academically successful for the rest of your life.”




Hailey explained that early literacy is effective and that parents can help their children immensely with this.

“With early literacy, probably the easiest thing that parents can do that is going to build literacy is to read to their children 20 minutes every single day of their life,” said Hailey. “Read stories to them that are age appropriate and the things that children will learn and absorb from that are absolutely amazing.”

During the event, Hailey explained, “the university’s biggest part is that the National Association of Education of Young Children, who is one of our accreditation agencies, says that our students should do community service and service learning projects,” making relationships between the future teachers of our community and the children and parents of those children in an inviting atmosphere.

“This is a beautiful way for them to get out and see the parents and children outside of the school environment,” said Hailey. “This kind of event attracts parents that might sometimes not be as comfortable at school as we would like for them to be. It’s a very comfortable environment for everybody, and so people come to it. It gives our students that opportunity, and they get to use their teacher skills and they get to interact with parents and children. They get to network with early childhood professionals in our community, often times my students walk away from there with a job in one of the local daycare centers.” 

Hailey expressed that the event demonstrated that as teachers, they are not just there to teach but to also let them understand the importance of how they are advocating for children and not just stopping with the teaching aspect. 

This years “Once Upon a Time in the Park” featured books that included “Dr. Seuss’s ABC,” “The Carrot Seed,” “Pete the Cat,” “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear” and “Five Green and Speckled Frogs.”

Junior early childhood education major Shelby Breckwoldt was a part of “The Big Hungry Bear” literacy station that taught children about greater than and less than concepts.

“In the story, it talks about cutting things into two and then looking at greater than and less than," said Breckwoldt. “So, that’s what we went with for our math activity. On our math activity, we have the kids have to look at the strawberries and decide which ones are more than, less than and equal to.”

Another literacy center was based on the book “Five Green and Speckled Frogs,” which focused on math lessons and were taught by senior early childhood education major, grades PK-3 Jessica Sundquist and senior elementary education major, grades 1-5 Rhonda Broussard. Sundquist explained why she was at the event and what her group was doing for the event.

“I’m out here with ‘Once Upon a Time in the Park,’ reading to children,” said Sundquist. “We are hoping to teach them subtraction using ‘The Five Green and Speckled Frogs’ book, and we have manipulatives. We have tactile resources, and we have interactive activities.”

She added that the children “love the tactile part, and they are having a great time jumping and pretending they are frogs and touching everything and manipulating our visuals.” 

Some of the other literacy sections included “Pete the Cat,” that used the sing-song rhythm of the story to teach subtraction, and “The Carrot Seed,” taught children how to sort. Junior early childhood education major Ann Rudesill decided to choose “The Carrot Seed” because of the age group it reached and the pace of the book.

“It’s on a preschool level, so it hits that three, four-year-old level,” said Rudesill. “It’s short and keeps their attention span. It was easy to tie into a math activity. We’re doing sorting, and it’s not too advanced for them. So, they can really get into it, and they don’t drift off because it’s not long and drawn out.”

Hailey described the relationship between the university and the parish community.

“I think the collaboration between the university and our community partners is beautiful,” said Hailey. “We don’t really put in a lot of funding. The Tangi Parish School System puts in funding and then the number of people who come to this as volunteers is phenomenal. We will have well over 100 volunteers.”

Although there were severe storms during the event, parents of children like Alicia Young, who attends every year, still enjoyed themselves and saw their children learning and absorbing new information. 

“It’s great,” said Young. “My kids are learning so much. I have a son, Ezekiel who’s four, and my daughter, Harmony she’s six. It’s very educational, and they are learning so much, and I’m learning a lot that my son, I didn’t know that he knew.”