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Books aid family time at Arnold Elementary

Arnold Elementary School third-grader, Toddrick Ennis, and his father, Todd Ennis, sat on a couch, tucked away in a secluded corner of the school's media center, and read Stan and Jan Berenstain's, "The Berenstain Bears' Moving Day," on Thursday afternoon.

The school hosted one of its five family read-ins after school on Thursday. Toddrick Ennis and Todd Ennis took turns reading the book, which chronicles the Berenstain Bears family's move from a cave to a tree house. Toddrick Ennis, 9, read the first half of the book to his dad, and then, Todd Ennis read the second half to his son.

After they finished the book, the younger Ennis went over to a computer station in the middle of the media center, and took an Accelerated Reader (AR) test on the book.

"We make it to everyone of these family read-ins," Todd Ennis said. "It's a good thing to do, because he gets to come in here, and he reads to me, and I read to him. Then, he gets to catch up on his AR points. I think it's a good time for family time."

Arnold Elementary has been hosting family read-ins for several years, said school Media Specialist Carrie Davison. "It's a chance where they [the families] get to come in and read together," she said.

After the family finishes a book, the student then takes the Accelerated Reader test on the book, while its contents are still fresh in his or her mind.

Students also sign up for a raffle during the read-in, and Davison pulls the names of the winners after the event closes for the evening, she said. The winners get prizes that include books and posters, she added.

A student can't come into the media center during a read-in, unless he or she is accompanied by a parent, Davison said.

"I like the read-ins, because I can relax and enjoy a book," Toddrick Ennis said. "When we read in the class everyday, the other kids talk a lot, and you don't really get the full effect of the book. In here, it's just peace and calm, and you get to relax while you read."

Davison said the school was scheduled to host six read-ins this year, but the January event had to be canceled because after-school activities throughout the school system were canceled that day, due to snowfall. The last family read-in for the 2009-2010 school year is scheduled to take place in March, she said.

Two hours into the three-hour read-in Thursday, 22 students, and their mothers and fathers, had already come by to read together, according to Davison. The events typically draw 30 families, she said.

"It's very popular with our families," Davison said. "When it was snowed out, a lot of parents and children were disappointed."

John Walker, father of Arnold third-grader, Brandon Walker, and the director of school safety for Clayton County Public Schools, said his family likes the read-ins because it gives the students something to do after school.

"They're keeping them [the students] off the streets, and keeping them safe," he said. "What better way to protect our children than to have them read books."

Brandon Walker, 8, then added, "I like the read-ins, because I get to read a bunch of books without the teacher around."