Turn Off the Tube

Unique reading program encourages adults and children to open a good book.

By Sean Aronson

At a time when most keiki have IPod’s glued to their palms and spend hours on the internet, reading may be more important than ever.  That’s the message from Jed Gaines and the Read Aloud Program, or RAP.

Gaines is founder and president of Read Aloud America and visited Molokai last week to attend the kick-off event at Kaunakakai Elementary School.  More than 200 people filled the cafeteria, all inspired to start reading more.

Kualapuu and Maunaloa Elementary participated in the program last year.  It is the second time Kaunakakai has participated and at least half of the adults and children are repeat customers.  Kilohana Elementary is participating for the first time.

While Gaines was in attendance at the kick-off event, the man running the show was Molokai High School staff member Matthew Helm.  Helm was a participant in RAP last year as a parent and loved the affect it had on him and his family.

Helm, who is also the Women’s High School volleyball coach, said taking on the increased responsibility was no big deal.

Since this was the first of six meetings over three months, Helm spent the majority of his time discussing the mission of the program and gauging the enthusiasm of the crowd.  This included asking trivia questions and throwing Frisbees to those answering correctly.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of RAP is the TTTT requirement or ‘TV Turn-off Through Thursday’.  As implied, RAP participants are asked to leave the TV’s off until the weekends.  The suggestion applies for children and adults.

Helm admitted this was hard for him and his family when he participated, but it was important in keeping the reading a focus for the six week period.

“It’s so easy to get into bed and watch a little Sportscenter before going to sleep,” Helm told the participants, “But I found I could do without.”

To encourage reading, participants are given a list of suggested books to read, appropriate for each age group.  They are also persuaded to get a library card if they don’t already have one, and visit if frequently during the program.

Adults are encouraged to participate with the same vigor and enthusiasm as the adults.  This sets RAP apart, according to Gaines.

“The secret of the program is the adults,” says Gaines.

While other reading programs focus on the mechanics of reading, RAP is really about the pleasure of reading.  At its heart, the program is reading for reading’s sake, says Gaines.  There are no book reports, no grades – just reading.

RAP is celebrating its ten-year anniversary and has reached more than 140,000 people in Hawaii.

This unique family literacy program draws parents and children together for six sessions every other week in the early evening to share good books. Its goals are to reach families and stimulate their interest in reading, decrease television viewing, increase family time spent in reading activities, and connect the values of good books to everyday life.

Families who participate in RAP build Family Reading Handbooks and receive free books, reading lists, and dinners.

The free dinner takes some of the pressure off of adults and allows them to participate.
“The more adults involved, the better the program,” says Gaines.  Judging from the turnout at Kaunakakai, this should be a good year for RAP.

For more information, visit www.readaloudamerica.org or call (808) 531-1985.

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