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February 22, 2011 Inspire Families to Read Together — Host a Pajama Party! By Danielle Mahoney

    Children love being read to, especially right before bedtime. There’s something really special about cuddling up in bed under the covers with a great book. Why not motivate your students to read by creating a class celebration that promotes literacy? Read Across America Day on March 2nd is the perfect date to invite families into your classroom for a reading celebration. Take a look at photos from the last pajama party at my school, and read about sure ways to make your party a hit. Grab a comfortable pair of pj's, and let the reading begin!

    Read Across America


    Join schools across the nation in a celebration of reading on Wednesday, March 2nd. Visit Seussville to find out more about this special day. You'll find printable activities there, as well as lesson plans and a planning calendar to help you incorporate the writing of Dr. Seuss into your classroom throughout the year. My Top Teaching friend Ruth Manna wrote a post on planning for this special day a few weeks ago. The incredible Christy Crawford teaches us that "Reading Goes to the Dogs" in her post about inviting therapy dogs into the classroom — something I hope to do, too. Check out these posts for ideas as you make your plans to read, read, read! 

    Host a Pajama Party!

    As you make your plans to celebrate Read Across America Day, consider hosting a special pajama party in celebration of literacy. It doesn't have to last more than an hour, yet students will remember this special day for years to come.

    Share your thoughts about creating this event with your administrators and colleagues. These conversations are a starting point to get your entire school community involved with inspiring students and their families to read together. 

    Create a Welcoming Invite

    I work in a school that is located right in the middle of Jackson Heights, Queens, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York City. Many of our students' families speak languages other than English at home. Regardless of their first language, every parent should feel welcomed and able to become involved in this event. They may feel hesitant to read aloud in front of others, so encourage them to bring in books written in their native language. Translate your invitation into the languages that your students' parents speak. Make them feel comfortable so that they will join in the fun.

    Consider Parents' Availability


    Remember, not all parents will be able to attend your party. I grew up in a single parent family with a mother who worked really hard to make ends meet. I honestly don’t know how she did it. It was very difficult for her to take time off from work to attend events that took place during the school day. There were many times when she just couldn't make it, no matter how much she wanted to.

    It's important to be thoughtful about your students' home situations. Some children may be upset that their moms and dads will not be able to attend. Prepare your students for this before the event, to help them cope with their feelings. Perhaps a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling can make it instead? You want your event to be a success. Make other options available so that no one feels left out. 


    Photo above: My mother, Joanne, with my sister, Jennifer, and I in the early '70s.


    I have found that most parents who are able to attend will gladly share their books and their time with other students in the class. Give them an extra special thanks for helping out.


    How will you know who will be attending? When creating your invite, include a tear-off sheet like the one below to help you get ready for your guests. Use this information to speak with your students about parents who may not be able to make it.


    Prepare for the Big Day! 

    Since you'll have parents in and out of your classroom on the day of the event, this is a great opportunity to provide them with resources to support their children at home. Print out a few articles to hand out at the end of the party. Whether you give out a collection of tips on improving reading comprehension, suggestions to help them choose books to read at home, or ideas for "non-book" ways to get their children reading, your efforts will be appreciated.


    Have a computer set up with's Parents site displayed and allow them to sign up to receive a monthly newsletter. Parents are always looking for tools to use at home. Provide them with opportunities to gather resources to help support the reading work you are doing in the classroom. 

    Enjoy the Celebration!

    Our schoolwide pajama party took place last week and was a great success. Take a look at these photos and tips to help you get ready for your big day.

    Tip #1: Ask your students to bring in their favorite book from home.

    Photo: Reagan and her mom enjoy reading a family favorite, When Vegetables Go Bad! by Don Gillmor.
    (I love how mom arrived in her pajamas, too!)


    Tip #2: Invite parents to read books written in their home language.

    Photo: Caroline and her mom read Con todo mi corazón, the Spanish version of I Love You With All My Heart


    Tip #3: Remember to serve up some snacks. (Cookies and milk are always a hit!) 

    Photo: Joe takes a break from reading to serve up the delicious cookies to the guests.

    Photo: Brandon and his mom read James and the Giant Peach while munching on some snacks.

    Tip #4: Bring in a favorite stuffed animal from home. (You're never too old.)

    Photo: These smiling 4th graders had plenty of "friends" to read to!

    Photo: Juliana reads to Rebecca, her American Girl doll — in matching pj's, of course!

    Tip #5: Have some of YOUR favorite books on hand to share with students.

    Photo: Braezy, Michelle, and Valentina enjoy my copy of Oliver JeffersLost and Found.

    Tip #6: Encourage parents to sit down and get comfortable! 


    Photo: Gianna's dad joins in on the fun. Daniela and Gianna take turns reading to him. 

    Tip #7: Allow students to share an eBook with friends! 

    Photos above: Sydney shares an eBook on her Nook with Olivia, Chelsea, and Valentina. 

    Tip #8: Remember to wear your pajamas!

    Photo: Kevin and Thomas look great in their pajamas. Armed with cookies and books, they are ready to read!

    Tip #9: Invite (a virtual) Justin Bieber to your party!  


    OK, I must admit it. I have Bieber fever! It started when I took Olivia and Ryan (my 7-year-old niece and 9-year-old nephew) to see Justin Bieber's movie Never Say Never last Saturday. I was really impressed with how talented this young star is. (It was a good movie! Go see it!)

    Shortly after seeing the movie, my sister found a special link of Justin Bieber reading a bedtime story on Pizza Hut's site for their incredible reading incentive program "Book It!" Like it or not, most of your students are probably head over heels for him. Allow them to watch Justin Bieber reading Dr. Seuss' classic The Cat in the Hat. They are sure to get a kick out of it!  


    Tip #10: Have fun!

    I hope that these ideas will inspire you to start planning a fun event to connect with your students and their families. Whether it's a classroom party, a grade level event, or a schoolwide celebration, you will make an impact on students and their families as you get them excited about reading. With state tests right around the corner, we all need to celebrate reading now more than ever. Open up your classroom and invite family members in to join your community of readers. Enjoy!  


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