Savana Stangeland and other peer mentors and freshmen of the Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers learning community make reading fun for children at a Bookland event. File photo by Ryan Riley.

Literacy outreach event provides future teachers a way to give back

From their very first year on campus, Iowa State University students participate in real-world experiences and service learning projects that allow them to give back to the community.

Bookland, an outreach project by the School of Education, inspires families to read at home with their children.

“It gives incoming freshmen one of their first opportunities to plan a literacy activity that excites and engages kids,” said Leah Miller, a senior in elementary education who is a peer mentor. “The event also shows the importance of leadership within your school and the surrounding community.”

Three events coming up this fall

The partnership between students in the freshman and transfer learning communities of the School of Education, the Ames Public Library, and Raising Readers in Story County kicked off in 2015 and continues this year with events scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 15, 1 p.m. Nov. 6, and 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at the Ames Public Library.

“Bookland not only inspires families to read, but also inspires our Iowa State elementary education students to work with diverse families in the communities they will teach in,” said Constance Beecher, an assistant professor in the School of Education and specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.

The event brings literacy to life and makes reading fun with the help of costumes, skits, crafts, and life-sized board games. More than 100 students were involved in the outreach event at the Ames Public Library last year, and even more students will be involved this year.

The first event this Saturday focuses on English as a second language and is hosted by the Future Teachers-Future Leaders Learning Community in the School of Education. Participants will include Aaron Sewell, a senior in elementary education who transferred to Iowa State after receiving a political science degree at Simpson College.

Sewell said working at day camps for six summers, being a youth pastor for a year, and being a short-term substitute teacher made him realize that he wanted to get his teaching license. He’s excited about Bookland allowing kids to experience books in an interactive way.

“These community volunteer events and practicum experiences are great opportunities to practice what we learn in our courses and develop that classroom teacher experience needed to be successful,” Sewell said. “There is so much I am learning on campus that I then apply at every chance I get in the real world. We’re sharpening our skills and becoming much better educators with every elementary student interaction.”

Giving back to the community

Service learning and community-based learning projects are considered “high-impact educational activities” at Iowa State, helping to shape students to become well-rounded citizens and informed critical thinkers.

“I think that this specific Bookland outreach in the Ames community was special for me because as a student at Iowa State, Ames has become a second home to me,” said Hailey Walker, a senior in elementary education who participated in last year’s Bookland events. “It was a wonderful night for me to give something back to this family-oriented community.”

Walker said Bookland is fun to plan and provides great practice for future teachers to think of activities that will engage students in reading.

“This event inspired me as a future teacher to hold an event like this in my future classroom,” she said. “It was so special to see the children interacting with their parents over books.”

Children not only have fun at the event, but also go home with a gift. Iowa State students in the learning community raise money to purchase books so that every child attending the event can leave with a free book.  

“One of the things that inspired me the most about this event was seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids at the event,” Miller said. “Our group worked really hard to plan exciting activities and create an awesome evening for the Ames community.”