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Shoreham ‘fireside’ chat focuses on reading

Parents and kids alike got into the reading

Parents and kids alike got into the reading mood when a Shoreham elementary school gym was transformed into a much more cozy setting. Credit: Erin Geismar

The gymnasium at Briarcliff Elementary School in Shoreham looked like anything but on Tuesday morning. The shades were drawn, and two faux fireplaces, Christmas trees and rocking chairs transformed the dimly lit room into a cozy holiday scene.

Jane Ruthkowski, who started the Fireside Holiday Read-In and Sing-Along when she became principal three years ago, separated the participants by class as they entered the gym -- their eyes wide to take in the scene, which also included a life-size Candy Land diorama with a gingerbread castle, fake snow and an ice-skating pond.

With their favorite children’s books in hand, the group of about 50 settled onto mats on the floor. But the group wasn’t made up of students, who joined them a few minutes later. They were parents, grandparents and other family members who had come to the school to share their love of reading.

“It connects to our reading instruction,” Ruthkowski said about the event. “At the kindergarten and first grade level, children are very eager and excited to learn to read, so this is the time to get them. And also, getting their parents involved in their reading and their learning certainly will support that growth.”

The event takes place on three occasions every December, and each kindergarten and first grade student can invite one guest. The guests are asked to bring in a book, either one they loved in their own childhood or the student’s favorite.

The gymnasium, decorated mainly by physical education teacher Deirdre Gilroy, is transformed into a living room-like setting, and teachers and parents pass out cups of hot chocolate to give the adults and children an intimate setting to focus on their reading.

The children started off the event with a holiday sing-along performance for their guests, which is new this year. Then the kids found their family members on the mat and plopped down on their laps to enjoy the book they had brought to read. Ruthkowski also chose the school’s book of the month, and read it out loud to the group.

Ruthkowski said it’s an important event educationally because it shows the students that their parents and other relatives -- who take time from work or the busy holiday season to be there -- value their reading, as well.

“Sit back and relax,” she told the group. “And think about what’s really, really important, because this is it.”

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