Experiencing the Family Reading Experience!

Kindle_Mom_DaughterWhen our team set out to develop a new reading program I had two thoughts in mind: one, it needed to help families better understand the role they can play in developing their children’s reading skills and, two, it needed to be fun. After all, I never enjoyed meetings where I sat in a tiny chair and just listened to teachers tell me what to do when my children were young! Our team decided the best way to engage families and teach them about reading was to make it into a game families could play together. Somehow that morphed into an evening full of games and then into an event where families moved from one game station to the next on a quest to learn strategies to help their children become better readers: Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle.

Smile_FingerWhile the games are simple and don’t require a lot of supplies, we really wanted to be sure that families and teachers thought they were useful and enjoyed them as well. Our team decided to test the Experience by taking it on the road. We worked with some incredible local PTA leaders in Albuquerque and Baltimore and set up a series of Experiences to see how they went. Each Experience was unique but the response was overwhelming. Teachers said the activities were useful and they liked having everything ready to use. They even said they were borrowing some of them to use in their classrooms. Families told us the event showed them new ways they could help their children at home. They said they liked trying all the different games and learning new ways to read with their children. One parent told me they were having such a good time they didn’t realize they were learning!

Sherri_WilsonI am incredibly proud of the Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle and I am humbled by the opportunity to work in an organization so full of talented and creative friends who can help me make these bold ideas a really fun reality!

Seen here at the PTA Family Reading Experience, Powered by Kindle pilot launch at Cecil Elementary School in Baltimore, MD, Sherri Wilson is the Senior Manager of Family and Community Engagement at National PTA in Alexandria, VA. Contact Sherri at swilson@pta.org.






Guest Blog: Meagan Gardner, PTA Youth Advocate of the Year

Youth_Advocate_LEGCONWhen I got the call that I would be the National PTA’s first ever recipient of the outstanding youth advocate of the year award, I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked beyond words.  Winning this award had meant so much to me, and I am very honored that National PTA chose me to receive it.

Ever since elementary school my mom has been involved in the PTA so I’ve seen members doing amazing work at all the different levels. Being a student in school and in PTA, I’ve gotten to see not only the work that goes into making all of the great things happen that the PTA does, but I also get see and experience the outcome and how it effects students. When I first started working on the resolution I never would have imagined that I would be here today. Being around PTA for so long, fighting for what you believed in had just become second nature for me. So when I was working on this resolution it didn’t seem like a big deal to me, it was just me fighting for what I believed in.

I believe very strongly in all that PTA does, and I love getting to be a part of all of that amazing work. Thus, when I found out I was going to get to attend the Legislation Conference this year I was really excited. The three workshops I went to while I was here were Common Core Standards, Family Engagement, and Budget. They were all really amazing and I took a ton from each. I learned so much at Legislative Conference and I have had an amazing time. I cannot wait to go talk to my senators and representatives tomorrow. I can only hope that I get to come again next year because it really was an amazing event and National PTA did an awesome job of putting it on.

Seen above with her family and PTA Officers, Meagan Gardner was honored with the first annual Youth Advocate of the Year Award for her outstanding display of advocacy related to the issue of distracted driving. As a student representative for her local PTA unit, Meagan worked with other student representatives in Missouri to draft a resolution on distracted driving that was passed by both Missouri PTA and National PTA. Meagan is now working with students across Missouri to create a distracted driving PSA.

Photo courtesy of Lifetouch National School Studios Photography.

I’m Never Washing My Black Sweater Again…

…Not since First Lady Michelle Obama patted my shoulder and said, “We love PTA!” at the Let’s Move! Active Schools event in Chicago last week. Her trademark enthusiasm was on display with an excited double-fist pump and I know that our partners, Kaiser Permanente and Safe Routes To Schools, were impressed!  I was so proud of the work we do I thought was going to burst.


The First Lady called on leaders to support schools’ efforts to ensure all kids get the physical activity they need to stay healthy and succeed in school. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

This was no small event – Nike was a lead corporate sponsor and Mrs. Obama wasn’t the only big name there. Program participants included Serena Williams, Olympic star Gabby Douglas, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, 49’ers QB Colin Kaepernick (yes, he and Mrs. Obama did the “bent arm bicep kiss”) and over 6,500 Chicago Public School students.

We all know what’s happening in Washington, but this event demonstrated that even in today’s environment not everything has to be political.  The entire event was electric; passion was everywhere. The kids, stars and First Lady all got into the program and Mrs. Obama even changed into workout gear to get active with the kids.  We engaged at a high level and focused on the commitment needed to do great things for kids.  From fighting childhood obesity to physical activity to healthy eating, we kept our eye on the ball and generated tons of publicity.

Here’s a fun takeway…never underestimate the power of our brand.  My PTA pin may be gold, but it acted more like a magnet! Throughout the day, I had people coming up to comment on how much they love PTA.

PTA is helping lead the way and with a champion like Mrs. Obama we’re on our way to helping kids have a healthier future.

Debra Strauss serves on the National PTA Board of Directors, and recently attend the Let’s Move! Active Schools initiative as PTA representative for Fire Up Your Feet – a recognized program of the Let’s Move Active Schools initiative. Fire Up Your Feet programming provides a full range of age-appropriate resources and educational materials to encourage physical activity to, from and at schools, with simple ways to track activity, earn awards, fundraise in a healthy way and stay motivated in a fun and friendly environment. To learn more about Fire Up Your Feet, visit FireUpYourFeet.org.