BULLHEAD CITY — Don’t let the event billing make you think that Milk and Cookies Night fully describes what goes on during the family event hosted by Ava Smith, a first-grade teacher at Desert Valley Elementary School.
The milk and cookies — there were a few bottles of sparkling cider as well — were something for everyone to enjoy while Smith laid out plans for the rest of the school year.
“You’re in your children’s learning environment,” she said to parents who had gathered in her classroom.
There were nearly two dozen families crowded into the classroom. Smith noted later that more families than ever had attended.
Along with getting a feel for where their children spend many hours a week, parents also found out about what they can do to help their children prepare to learn — today and well into the future.
Smith explained that first grade is a year for children to lay down an educational foundation before advancing to second grade. It’s the time when students are expected to work faster, sit down and do work.
“I’m trying to be realistic to your babies,” Smith said.
And there’s homework. Sometimes the math can be confusing, for example.
Smith drove home the point that about 10 minutes of reading a day helps a child significantly increase his or her vocabulary within a year.
Being within earshot while your child reads aloud can help you know how well the student is doing it. The idea is to move children toward saying words, understanding those words and understanding the messages the writer is conveying.
She demonstrated how a child who needs improvement reads aloud. They slowly say the words as if they are reciting a list, not absorbing a story.
The message about reading Smith had for the parents: Overall perfection isn’t expected, but sufficient effort to improve is necessary.
This is Smith’s fifth year hosting the milk and cookies event, which also includes a chance for the children to do some crafting and pick out some books to read from among about 1,000 on tables in a corner of the classroom and to grab some school-donated supplies.
She explained how she thought it was important to make sure parents are aware of what’s expected of their children.
The parents looked over books given out for reading as well as read through information about what state educators expect from young students at various points in their learning.
She also explained why the children might be talking a lot about Australia. It has been a topic of conversation because of the wildfires there. They are learning about what’s happening there, and why.
It’s also important to teach students to be kind and understanding of others, she said.
The parents also filled out a survey about Milk and Cookies Night. Some of them said the milk and cookies were the best part though others said they were happy to learn what they can do to help their children learn.
The students each received a book titled “The Kissing Hand.” According to Barnes & Noble, the story is about how Chester Raccoon was able to get past his nervousness about school. He wanted to stay home with his mother instead.
His mother, wanting him to be well learned, comforts him by kissing his tiny raccoon paw.
“With a kissing hand,” she told Chester, “we’ll never be apart.”
The children made some gifts for their parents based on the story. They were well-received.
Laminated side by side were a picture of the child and next to it a hand. Smith emphasized that the children actually kissed the hands encased in laminate.
Their kiss is “laminated in there forever,” Smith emphasized.