URBANA — Parents, if you want to raise your children to be lifelong readers, this event is for you.
The 20th annual Read Across America is Feb. 29 at Lincoln Square in Urbana, and it’s designed to both help prepare kids for school and spark a love of reading, according to Sheri Langendorf, one of the organizers.
The free event has grown over the years, from attracting a few hundred children in the early years to about 1,000 in more recent years, she said.
Read Across America began as a national event promoted by the National Education Association to help adults motivate kids to read.
For the local celebration — being held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — some 35 agencies, schools and other organizations are involved, Langendorf said.
Included for this year’s event will be activities for kids that parents will also be able to do with them at home, she said.
Each child will start out receiving a free tote bag with a sticker card they can present at activities throughout Lincoln Square.
There will be Rotary Club members reading stories at various places in the shopping center, plus professional storytellers on stage, with books read in several different languages.
Each child will receive a free book to take home, Langendorf said.
There will also be an activity area for parents to bring infants and toddlers that will be a bit quieter, she said.
Langendorf, the retired family literacy coordinator in adult education at Parkland College, encourages families to make reading a part of their daily or nightly routines.
Among the NEA’s tips for parents to inspire kids to read are reading together in some form — from the news in the morning to a story at night — every day and having conversations to help children build vocabulary and language skills.
Parents should also model reading themselves, allow children to choose books and point out print in places they encounter it with their children, the group said.
More tips from the NEA:
— Encourage re-reading. Repetition helps kids learn.
— Visit the library with your children.
— Create a reading-rich home with books and provide kids with their own basket or shelf to keep their books.
— Praise kids as they make their first attempts to read.
— Discuss what you read and ask questions while you read together.
— Keep reading materials handy to read to kids during wait times at appointments and restaurants.
— Connect reading and writing by writing your own material, such as a story about your life.
— Connect life experiences with books, such as reading a book about animals and visiting a zoo.