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Program promotes fun of reading

By Staff | Apr 22, 2010

Miriam Tamayo (left) and Annie Nagasako helped bring Read Aloud America to Lahaina.

LAHAINA — In the challenging landscape that is the public education system here in Hawaii, a new program has appeared to brighten hopes for the future.

Read Aloud America, also known as RAP (Read Aloud Program), began in 1999 under the leadership of founder Jed Gaines and has since become the largest and most effective family literacy program in America. The program has served some 200,000 adults and children throughout Hawaii at over 60 public schools.

The Read Aloud Program promotes parents reading aloud to children and helps families share good books and build a lifelong love of reading.

The RAP mission statement reads, “Through the fun of reading and being read to, Read Aloud America promotes literacy, bonds families and builds communities of lifetime readers.”

The goals of the program include encouraging parents/caregivers and teachers to read to children on a regular basis; providing resources to help parents and teachers choose books and read to children; demonstrating the pleasure of reading and its relevance in daily life; nurturing a love of reading in parents and awakening a love of reading in children; and encouraging families to limit television, computer and video time to read.

RAP families take time out from busy schedules six times during one school semester to meet in the school cafeteria. After short introductory activities, the students gather in age level groups to listen to volunteers read stories. Parents, grandparents, teachers and caregivers stay in the cafeteria with the RAP presenter and relax as they listen to stories, reading tips and chapter books.

RAP provides free snacks, drinks and a light dinner, and the evening ends with door prizes and a party atmosphere. The program is designed for families with children from toddlers to teens and takes the stress out of reading.

The sessions are relaxed and enjoyable, as adults and children all experience the power and pleasure of hearing books read aloud. RAP focuses on success, and there are no tests, quizzes or reports.

Luckily for Lahaina, Princess Nahienaena Elementary School Librarian Miriam Tamayo heard of the RAP program a few years ago and began investigating the possibilities of bringing it to the West Side.

She sat in on a session at Wailuku Elementary last year. “I was blown away. There were so many people there, and it was such a well-organized program. The unique thing is that it involved the whole family from one-month-old babies to grandparents. It promoted family engagement on all levels,” she said.

Tamayo contacted Gaines at the RAP headquarters in Honolulu and enlisted the help of Princess Nahienaena Curriculum Coordinator Annie Nagasako to bring the program to Lahaina. Together, they organized the program and held their first session on Jan. 28.

“We were worried about people coming to our school for the program,” said Tamayo. “But on that first night, 550 people came! It is so well organized and is funded by DHS (Department of Human Services), as well as our PTA. Everybody enjoyed themselves.”

As curriculum coordinator, one of Nagasako’s primary goals is to strive for parent involvement, and at Princess Nahienaena — a school with a wide range of ethnic diversity, including students of Filipino, Tongan, Hispanic and Chinese origins — this was a challenge.

“This was really a success in regards to the parent involvement component as related to student achievement, and the evaluations by the adults following the sessions showed the positive enjoyment of all who came,” she said.

“All of the teachers saw the success and value of the program as well.”

With the final session on April 8, the Princess Nahienaena RAP endeavor averaged over 500 participants over the six meetings.

The positive momentum of the program ignited expansion in the Lahaina Complex, as representatives from King Kamehameha III Elementary attended the last session that was highlighted by participation of special guest reader Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona and RAP founder Gaines.