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Family Reading Night — Let's Go Camping!

By Shari Edwards on January 30, 2013
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

A few nights ago, when the temperature was 24 degrees outside, almost 200 parents, students, and educators braved the cold and gathered in our gymnasium to read. The gym had been transformed. Its girls with their new booksusually bright, Phys Ed appearance had disappeared. Instead, we walked into a world of twinkling stars, chirping crickets, tents, and campfires (pretend . . . of course). The memory of the cold wind outside was long forgotten! Families sat together on the wood floor or in lawn chairs for a little shared reading.

The next hour was filled with fun for everyone!

Are you interested in creating this experience for your students' families? If so, read on!


Possible Agenda:


Families arrive, sign in, and pick up sticky notes and grade-level specific reading passages for each child before finding a spot to sit.

Parent Involvement Team welcomes everyone to the campground.


projection screen and teachers modeling how to score a fluency passage
Teachers model how to score a fluency assessment at the document camera.

Parents listen to their children read the passage for one minute as they mark miscues. Repeat two or three times for parents with multiple children present.



2nd grade tree with words per minute sticky notesParents count the words read for each child and write the numbers on sticky notes.

Students take sticky notes to the paper tree for their grade level.

Students pick up s’more snacks for their family.



guest reader

Everyone sings a camp song together with printed or projected lyrics on the screen.

Guest reader reads a "camping-out"-themed book to the crowd with the book's pictures projected from a document camera so everyone can see.



difficult choice - lots of books to choose from!

Grade levels choose a book to take home.

Everyone reads their new book until it’s time to go home.

Students choose a bookmark on their way out of the gym.




Supply List:

  • Strings of white lightsstrings of white lights represent stars
  • Volleyball poles to help stretch lights across a large area
  • Small sticky notes
  • Sharpened pencils
  • Projector
  • Document camera
  • Computer with large minute timer that is visible to all
  • Projection screen or white paper mounted to walls'more snacks
  • Tables for sign-in sheets, fluency passages, snacks, and books
  • Lawn chairs or folding chairs in case some parents don’t want to sit on the floor
  • Nature CD, music for camp song, and CD player
  • Camp décor such as tents, fake campfires, large paper trees across a wall (grade levels written on each for sticky notes)books for campers
  • Fluency passages for each grade level attending — if possible, parent’s copy should have word counts at the end of the lines
  • Snacks with camp theme (we had bags of graham cereal, chocolate chips, and marshmallows)
  • Wide selection of books for students to choose from

White Elementary is known for having good turnouts on family curriculum nights, but, due to the bad weather, this one really surprised me.

Smiles definitely dominated the scene that night! Parents left for home with a new understanding of how they can help their children with reading fluency, and their children left with a new book and . . .
                                                        another positive experience with reading!

reading by the campfiredaughter and mom enjoying the campfirecamp crowd

More Ideas and Resources:

Light a (camp)fire under your family reading night!Parent Involvement Coordinator handing out bookmarks

Early Childhood and Family Engagement Scholastic

"How to Run a Successful Family Night PTO Today

Success Stories from Partnership Schools Johns Hopkins University

And . . . the most important of all . . . hardworking, creative people like Amanda, our Parent Involvement Coordinator, and the White Elementary Parent Involvement Team!


Who are the people at your school who are invaluable in getting families involved?

What was the theme of your most successful family night?

Comments (6)

What a great idea to promote literacy and a great way to help guide parents on how to effectively help their children learn to read.
I would assume this is a free event, where did the budget come from for the book to take home?

I love this idea and we will be trying something like this next fall in my K-3 building. I have a question(s) for you. How many did you plan for and how many books did you purchase and from where? Thanks so much for the idea.

I like reading and the only way to rub it down to one's children is by sharing the love for reading with them. After all, children follow what you do more than what you say. YOU have a nice activity that reading teachers should emulate.

Thank you, Dora! I totally agree! Thanks for your comments.

One of the most important discoveries for parents and teachers alike: What to do to help children over the difficulties learning to read? That is what children are learning to do in second grade. The fact that they are not totally fluent yet is not the issue. The issue is who is in the best position to help them get there? The answer: Shari hit it on the head--parents as partners with the teacher. If reading was so seamless, children would be BORN with the ability. Somebody taught ALL of us how to read. Who will YOU teach?

Thanks for the comment, Linda! We really do need to work together!

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