2018-02-10 / News

Family Literacy Program Planned for February 17 at Library

By Stephanie Fortino


At left: Authors Tracy Foster (left) and Shannon Cooper-Toma will host a Family Literacy program at Mackinac Island Public Library Saturday, February 17. (Photograph provided by Tracy Foster) At left: Authors Tracy Foster (left) and Shannon Cooper-Toma will host a Family Literacy program at Mackinac Island Public Library Saturday, February 17. (Photograph provided by Tracy Foster) A little turtle named Benson and his adventures will be featured at a family literacy program at Mackinac Island Public Library Saturday, February 17. The day will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Mackinac Island Public School for an activity and lunch, then the literacy program will follow at the public library at 1 p.m. Authors Tracy Foster and Shannon Cooper-Toma will share their books, “Benson’s Adventures in Michigan” and “Benson’s Seasonal Adventures in Michigan,” with children, educators, and parents. They’ll also share tips on how to make traveling in Michigan interesting, affordable, and educational.

The two authors work at Corunna Public Schools, Mrs. Foster as a kindergarten teacher and Mrs. Cooper- Tomas as elementary school principal. They have featured the Island in both of their books, which also include stops in Petoskey, Traverse City, Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing, and Detroit.

“There’s so much rich history” on Mackinac Island, Mrs. Cooper-Toma said, “so many unique opportunities to learn and grow,” and that made the Island a good place for Benson to visit.

The authors incorporated aspects of Michigan’s educational curriculum standards into the books, and also provide free teacher and parent guides to help students learn.

Travel is fundamental to establishing curiosity in children, say the authors. Exploring new places is important to giving children background information and vocabulary that is useful in preparing them for school. Their books, they say, can help.

“As educators, we look at students’ prior background knowledge,” Mrs. Foster said. “Sometimes it can be hard for them to comprehend the text. But realizing those experiences [of travel] helps to build that background knowledge.”

They have learned how valuable travel is for students by taking children on educational field trips. The two have traveled more than 11,000 miles around Michigan and personally funded trips, bringing stu- dents to communities like Mackinac Island to have fun and learn along the way. Communities like the Island offer many new opportunities for children who live in mid- Michigan or inner cities. During one visit to the Island, the two recalled, the trip was the first time some students had ever seen a Great Lake.

“It was so much fun watching them explore and be so curious about our Great Lakes,” Mrs. Cooper-Toma said.

They hope to inspire children to be curious and chronicle their adventures, just like Benson does in the book.

During the Family Literacy program, the authors will share resources and recommendations for making trips easier to plan, including the Michigan Activity Pass program, which offers families free passes and discounts to sites throughout Michigan and is available at libraries throughout the state.

The program will also feature a writing activity for students, where students will be able to share their own experiences on a postcard.

Mrs. Cooper-Toma and Mrs. Foster have also spearheaded the Benson’s Literacy Foundation, which so far has donated more than 4,000 books to community facilities and classrooms.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2018-02-10 digital edition