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Toledo PTO lauded for success of Family Reading Night

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Volunteer Lorry Miner (foreground, right) helps students choose from donated books during the Toledo Elementary School Family Reading Night March 12. Multiple activities had been available that night including campfire songs, lessons in American Sigh Language, and a visit from a real search and rescue dog.

The Toledo Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) hit the ball out of the park, according to attendees, with their Family Reading Night March 12 at Toledo Elementary School.

Though other such events had been held in years past, most visitors were saying they have never seen one with such scale and volume of activities for kids.

"They’ve done a great job, the PTO, with this," said Elementary School Principal Lisa Hull, stating she expects the event will "build with momentum" in the future.

The theme of the event was "Explore the Great Outdoors," and began with PTO volunteers dawning park ranger uniforms and guiding families to the various events.

Available were crafts for the kids, campfire songs led by Counselor Seth Martin, American Sign Language taught by volunteer Stefanie Mikota and Superintendent Sharon Bower, Q&A with a real search and rescue dog provided by Cascade Search and Rescue, and an appearance from Smokey the Bear himself.

Each of these learning stations centered around a specific book used both as a teaching tool and a way to show kids how literature can incorporate into their every-day lives.

After visiting the stations, students were allowed to select a book from a large number of donations collected from the students themselves. More like a large book exchange, these donations were collected in the two weeks prior to the event, and students were allowed to take their pick, with the help of volunteers.

Also making an appearance was the Winlock Timberland Library, informing residents of the resources available now that Toledo is part of the Timberland Library District. Library Manager Jamie Allwine said she is excited to be able to serve the students in Toledo, as this would not be possible if Toledo were still outside the district.

When asked if she expects the PTO to be organizing the Family Reading Night again next year, Hull noted the rousing success of the evening and said, "As long as they’re willing."

School Counselor Seth Martin (mid-ground, left) leads a group of children in campfire songs aided by a banjo and guitar.

Toledo School District Superintendent Sharon Bower (background, left) and volunteer Stafanie Mikota (background, right) teach children how to say "tent" in American Sign Language. To form the sign, one touches the tips of their index fingers and their little fingers together. Doing so repeatedly (about three times) means "camping," added Mikota.

K-9 handler Ann Lindh (background, center), with Cascade Search and Rescue, introduced students to retired search and rescue dog Lince. Kids had a lot of questions Lince's training and her duties as a search and rescue dog, and were able to approach and gently pet her, as well.

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