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‘Escape By Reading’ Takes On New Meaning

Kent City — Eighty-eight children from 70 Kent City Elementary families recently joined in an escape room reading challenge, doing their part to help rescue their “trapped” principals.

The online game was designed by Kent City reading consultant Kathy Arlen to take the place of family reading night. Health regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricted the district’s ability to host students’ families at the annual event, which is a requirement of a Title I grant.

Every year, Arlen tries to incorporate the building’s theme — this year’s is “Family Game Night” — as well as current trends “to enhance participation and add excitement” to family reading night.

Literacy coach Kathy Arlen makes sure that first grader Earl Carroll receives his reward of a free book (courtesy)

“I know that escape rooms are very popular with kids and adults,” she said, “so I knew this was a way that I could engage both children and adults.” 

The purpose of family reading night is to share strategies for parents to encourage and strengthen reading skills at home. With this in mind, Arlen created a virtual escape room that incorporated teaching literacy skills for home use.

She focused on skills and strategies for students from young 5’s to third grade, such as decoding, discussion prompts and nonfiction text features. 

Short video clips in the online game shared other reading strategies, including focusing on whole words, sounding out words, retelling a story and asking questions about events and feelings. Each clip suggested ways for parents to practice with their children. 

For each question, students provided their answer in a Google form. Every correct response allowed the child to unlock one of the doors in the game.

“Once they answered all questions correctly, all doors were open and led to the escape of Mrs. Thomas and Mr. Lepech, our principals,” said Arden.

Families who completed the escape room challenge earned free books and a chance to win a board game for their family.

This year’s annual reading night was a virtual challenge, with young readers using literacy strategies to rescue their principal and vice principal from a locked room (screenshot)
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Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio

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