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When reading the Ranger Rick Jr. magazine article “A Spooky Feeling” to children, have them try to predict what might happen next and ask if they think there really is a ghost in Ricky Raccoon’s home.

This is an example of the advice University of Delaware student Ellie Tunison offers in her monthly reading guide, which is aimed at supporting literacy at home, on the website of Ranger Rick Jr., the magazine published by the National Wildlife Federation.

A junior early childhood education major in the College of Education and Human Development, and intern in the Prekindergarten Reading Encouragement Project (PREP), Tunison said she hopes to make a difference in childhood literacy.

Her tips help families actively engage their children as they read the children magazine’s feature article. For example, Tunison suggests having children turn the pages, asking them to make predictions about the story and having them summarize the story once they’ve finished reading.

PREP was founded by Mike Wilson, a member of UD’s Class of 2013, with seed money he received through the Clinton Global Initiative University 2013 Commitment to Action. He involved UD students by developing an internship for early childhood education majors and coordinated a fellowship award through the Office of Service Learning.

Under the guidance of Martha Buell, professor of human development and family studies, PREP began in two preschools in Wilmington, providing free literacy materials to at-risk four-year-old children, including a monthly subscription to Ranger Rick Jr., an award winning children’s wildlife magazine.

As the first intern in PREP, Tunison was awarded a $1,400 community-based research fellowship to work with Myae Han, associate professor of human development and family studies.

“My original goal was to write a letter to the parents and guardians in my pre-k class, to go along with the magazine issue each month,” said Tunison.

When the editor at Ranger Rick Jr. heard how PREP used the magazine, Tunison was offered a chance to publish her tips on the magazine’s website.

“Ellie’s effort to provide a better guidance for parents on how to engage children in meaningful literacy experience has a powerful impact on doubling literacy support for children at home as well as at school,” said Han.

She went on to explain, “According to the research analyzing the data by Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Longitudinal Study of Youth, a student who can’t read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school on time than a child who reads on grade level by that time. Early reading proficiency was an even stronger predictor of high school graduation rate than poverty.”

Tunison said she wants her tips to encourage kids to be actively involved in reading so they are well prepared for kindergarten. She said she ultimately hopes obtain a master’s degree in education and either teach kindergarten or become a special education provider in early intervention services for infants and toddlers.

About Ranger Rick magazine

Ranger Rick magazine, published by the National Wildlife Federation since 1967, features educational content through exciting animal adventures and articles. Ranger Rick Jr., with colorful picture-book pages, targets children ages four to seven. Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. magazines received the 2013 Parents’ Choice award.  

Article by Lily Newton

Photo by Ambre Alexander

This article appeared in UDaily on November 22, 2013.