Powerful New Family Reading Program Set to Expand to Shoreline, Spokane

Executive Director Julie Ziegler discusses our new Prime Time Family Reading curriculum, which brings parents and children together to discover the transformative power of story.

Prime Time in Lynnwood

Participants in the pilot Prime Time Family Reading program in Lynnwood last October. | photo by Adam Knight. Click for a slideshow and more information about the program.

Julie Ziegler

Julie Ziegler, Humanities Washington executive director

It’s a Monday evening at the Lynnwood Library. About 25 families with children ages 6 to 10 gather in the community room over a simple dinner at one of six weekly sessions of our Prime Time Family Reading program last fall.

Picture twin girls in hijabs, a boy speaking Spanish with his father, a father with a shaved head and leather jacket holding the hands of his young son and daughter – people from very different walks of life. As the room fills, the cacophony rises with voices speaking English, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic. Everyone is excited to be there – even parents who have had long days at work. They’re willing to lay aside a restful evening at home, to put away their cell phones, all to spend an evening together for the sake of their children.

After the meal, the reading session begins. The Prime Time storyteller reads aloud from Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, a tale of two young women who are equally beautiful, but one is kind, the other selfish. Each reacts differently when they learn the king of the land is searching for a wife, and, of course, there is a surprise ending.

Children and adults alike are rapt. The participants – adults included – haven’t heard a book come to life like this before.

After the story is over, the Prime Time scholar sparks conversation with such questions as:

• In real life, are kind people rewarded?
• Are greedy people punished?
• Why do you make the choices you do? Do you think about yourself or think about others?

2012-10-29-Humanities-Washington-72Children wave their hands wildly, itching to answer. Adults who were reserved and silent the week before begin to offer input.

At a basic level, these children gain critical reading skills. But, more importantly, they grasp the lifelong benefits books and stories offer. They learn that reading can generate conversation and provide a tool to connect with others. They realize that information gained from reading and discussion can bring new perspective to their lives. And they discover that reading – and reading well – can change lives.

While new to our state, the Prime Time curriculum – developed by our friends at the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities – has already proven its ability to impact the lives of at-risk children over time. A recent ten-year impact study shows consistent, measurable improvements in participants’ academic performance, family interactions and library usage. We are thrilled to be bringing this powerful program to communities across our state.

Following the successful pilot program last fall, we’re set to bring Prime Time to two new locations. The first six-week series, partnering with the Shoreline Library, launches this week. In April, another series begins at the Shadle Library in Spokane. Both of these programs are already full, but we’ll be expanding to other communities in the fall.

A special thanks to the Wockner Foundation, whose generous support helped launch the Prime Time program here in Washington. If you’re interested in supporting this work, email Development Director KayLee Jaech, or visit our website to donate now.

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