Spring 2016

ATPE News is the official publication of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, the largest educator association in Texas. The magazine addresses the most important issues affecting public education in the state. Learn more at

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Page 26 of 43

I t's the frst Friday in October, and the Barnes and Noble in Denton, Texas—a place one can only assume is typically a quiet refuge for its patrons—is alive with the sounds of young children singing, laughing, and shouting with glee. For an hour on the frst Friday of every month, this normally docile bookstore transforms into a lively scene of education and fun. Young children are rapt with attention as college students lead them in stories, songs, discussion, and crafts. These aren't just any college students; they're ATPE members from Texas Women's University (TWU)—aspiring educators hoping to give back to their community while gaining a few new skills that they can apply to their future careers. The TWU reading program, hosted by the campus's ATPE chapter, is held monthly during the school year and weekly during summers. More than 10 children, mostly toddlers, have arrived on this fall morning, but the event typically attracts a range of children, from infants to school-age. Sitting on their parents' laps or child-sized wooden benches, the children sing and laugh along with each story, song, and question. And their college student leaders, glowing with excitement, clearly relish this hands-on opportunity to work with children in the community. As TWU students take turns reading books and leading the children in songs, their audience erupts with laughter and commentary ("I like that book!"). Every part of this event—from the selected stories, songs, and crafts to the ofcial debriefng in which TWU students discuss what they have learned—is orchestrated by the college students. Two professors in the school's Department of Teacher Education, Drs. Rebecca Fredrickson and Sarah McMahan, serve as co-sponsors of TWU's ATPE chapter, but the event itself relies on their students' hard work. Dr. McMahan explains that when the program started more than fve years ago, TWU's ATPE members were the driving force behind its initiation: "The students wanted to have an opportunity to work with kids during the summer, so it was organic in that it came about because of students' interests." The goal of this program is twofold—it serves as a community event that helps prepare young children for school by exposing them to educational songs and stories, and it also provides an opportunity for TWU's future educators to get experience working with children in an educational environment before they begin their student teaching. Senior Bethany Powell, the chapter's vice president of event planning, says the reading program has taught her about how to engage students and has helped her become steadily more comfortable working with kids and interacting with parents. "This is one of the frst classroom environments I was in when I began my program, and it was just a really great way to get started." When the story and song component of the program is over, Bethany efortlessly directs the children to the craft area by encouraging them to walk like a turkey, one of the characters in the last book read. Transitions like this are one of the many skills that the ATPE members get to practice during the reading program. Like any other craft, teaching can be very diferent in theory than it is in practice. The Barnes and Noble reading program gives TWU's ATPE members the opportunity to see how the skills and theories they have discussed in class play out in reality—and this practice gives them a stronger start to their careers. Having been involved with the program since its inception, Dr. McMahan can attest to the changes she has seen in her students. "They're learning to teach, and they're getting very good feedback, and getting "IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT, THEN YOUR FACE WILL SURELY SHOW IT. IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT, SHOUT, 'LET'S READ!' LET'S READ!" ATPE student members from Texas Women's University host reading programs that prepare them for the classroom while giving back to the community. | 27 spring 2016 PHOTO BY JOHN KILPPER

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