Literacy in the Park promotes love of reading, writing and discovery


By Anne-Margaret Swary

LITP 1Hundreds of families from Northwest Ohio recently converged at BGSU to celebrate and foster the importance of literacy in the lives of children at the 12th annual Literacy in the Park.

This free community event featured nearly 50 interactive exhibitor booths and displays and drew more than 2,000 people to the Perry Field House to engage in fun and meaningful activities and arts and crafts tied to literacy. 

The focus has expanded over the years to address all of the different ways literacy is important in our daily activities. In addition to reading and writing activities, families had the opportunities to engage in activities about digital literacy, science and environmental literacy, music literacy, financial literacy, nutritional literacy, physical education literacy and many other forms of literacy that can be found in their lives and communities.

LITP 3“To us, literacy is much more than simply learning to read,” said associate professor and event director Dr. Tim Murnen of the School of Teaching and Learning. “Literacy is the process of making meaning of the world around us. This can occur through reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and visualizing.” 

He said the goals for this free community event are twofold: “First, we would like to increase participants’ motivation to learn through literacy-based educational activities. Second, we want Literacy in the Park to be more than a one-day event, but rather a capstone event in an array of literacy activities across Northwest Ohio throughout the year sponsored by the Martha Gesling Weber Reading Center here in the College of Education and Human Development. We would like to see partnerships develop between the university and community organizations.”

LITP 4In addition to the dynamic, hands-on activities throughout the day, Literacy in the Park also featured two live presentations from acclaimed author Patricia Polacco, who has written and illustrated over 115 books for children. She is a much-sought-after lecturer and keynote speaker and has a distinguished record as an international advocate for the rights of children.

Born in Lansing, Michigan, her mother’s family were Jewish immigrants from Russia and the Ukraine, and her father's people were from County Limerick in Ireland. Both cultures valued and kept their history alive by storytelling. Her heritage and the themes of family traditions and storytelling feature prominently in her books. Among her most acclaimed books are Thank You, Mr. Falker, The Keeping Quilt and Junkyard Wonders, which touch on a wide variety of topics including bullying and understanding differences, learning disabilities, tradition and heritage, family relationships and more.

LITP 2She enthralled audiences with her personal history about persevering through dyslexia and dysgraphia, and struggling to learn to read as a teenager.

“I could not read until I was 14 years old,” she said. I could not write. I couldn’t do math. I felt stupid. I felt dumb.”

With the help of a dedicated teacher, she was able to overcome her learning disabilities, and she encouraged the children in the audience not to be discouraged by their own struggles. 

“I believe all children are gifted,” she told them. “The trick is, we don’t open our gifts at the same time.”