Sleepytime fun at Sullivan Apartments blends watermelon, reading and art
The fun started with slices of juicy watermelon at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments.
Then came a highly interactive reading of author Greg Pizzoli’s ‘The Watermelon Seed,’ featuring a dozen eager children at Sullivan and Courtney Waring, director of education at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Next, art, in the form of full-sized body outlines of each child, and a series of scribbly and colorful innards to show what would happen on their insides after eating an apple, or an orange, or a lemon, or grapes, or even a kiwi.
The hour-long activity at Sullivan came courtesy of Talk/Read/Succeed!, the family-based program that includes two SHA developments, two city schools, and some two dozen Springfield groups and agencies with a shared goal of raising reading levels among young children. The event, named ‘Sleepytime’ due to its early evening timeframe, was also done at Robinson Gardens Apartments.
For children like six-year-old twins Natali and Orlando Morales, it proved a perfect combination of food, learning and fun.
“I like the watermelon, and I like the story too,” said Natali. “The part about how his belly got big when he ate the seed was funny,” she added, describing the book’s main character, a crocodile.
Her brother handily agreed.
“Stories are good. We get to take the books home and keep reading them,” Orlando said.
The Eric Carle Museum has been a T/R/S! partner since the program launched in 2011, and delivers regular family literacy activities at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens as well as at the two participating schools, Boland and Dorman. The museum events include related snacks, stories and activities, and a book for each participating family to take home.
“It brings early literacy into the entire family,” explained Waring. “We’re engaging and connecting in activities that are the beginning of things that can continue at home. We start with a snack, then we do a reading, and then we have an art program, all connected to the book.”
Children were joined by parents as well as grandparents for an evening of stimulating fun.
Taisha Rodriguez, mother of the twins, said she enjoys the T/R/S! activities, and for multiple reasons.
“I like participating because the kids love it,” she said. “But I also know that a lot of other moms will be here, and I like getting to know the neighbors. It’s nice just to get out of the house and do something fun as a family.”
Isalis Flores, 11, and her brother Joel Flores, 5, also reported having a great time.
“The story was really good,” said Isalis, who is a fifth-grader at Boland.
“I liked the way the illustrations matched the story and made it so interesting. I like the things that we do here, it’s always fun,” she added.
Joel said he liked the story because “his tummy got so big after he ate that watermelon seed.”
Antonella Santiago participated with her daughters, Crystabel Davis, 8, and Cioe Davis, who is 4. Like the others, she agreed it was time well spent.
“I always come to these things,” Santiago said. “You get to spend good time with your kids, and you’re doing a lot more than just reading a book. The activities are always fun. And then, you get to bring the book home and keep on reading it.”
T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos said the program, funded with a grant from the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, is a chance to work with parents and young children who are at an age where reading can feel magical.
“The families love it,” Burgos said. “It is always a good time.”
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