Lake Worth program helps families read, spend time together

Cindy Ansell knows a thing, or two, about reading. She was a school principal for 15 years and a librarian for 25 at the Lake Worth Library.

“Reading is key to success in school and success in school opens up many opportunities in life for people,” said Ansell, 62. “Reading also contributes to a higher quality of life.”

That is why Ansell started Table Talk, a program that encourages family meal time, literacy and community awareness.

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“I am committed to increasing literacy skills in Lake Worth,” Ansell said. “I do a lot of programming aimed at children — story time, class visits, summer reading program — but when you look at literacy statistics, you see that success in school is largely based on family and home behaviors.”

Table Talk started Jan. 9 with 14 families and 15 facilitators at Bridges at Highland Elementary School in Lake Worth. The evening started with the facilitators serving each family dinner. After that, Ansell introduced the 12-week program and read the book, “Bee Bim.”

The families were encouraged to duplicate the evening’s activities in their own homes the following week and each was given a bilingual book to read. They were asked to record the meal in their log book and bring the book to the next meeting on Jan.23.

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All but one family returned, Ansell said.

Each family filled out a survey and almost everyone, Ansell said, were unhappy with the amount of time they were spending eating or reading together.

“This program gives each family time to spend together doing something that is beneficial to them,” Ansell said. “Spreading it over 12 weeks allows spending the time together to become a habit.”

Jose Mendez, a child development specialist at Bridges at Highland Elementary, said so far the program is doing well. “This program is for our families to be aware of what’s going on in the community,” Mendez said.

The program, however, isn’t cheap.

The group, Ansell said, received a $5,000 grant from the Florida Humanities Council, $1,000 from the Lake Worth Rotary Club and $1,000 from the Friends of Lake Worth Library to cover expenses.

She added she’d love to duplicate the program around Lake Worth. To do that, Table Talk will need places to host the program, food to serve and people to volunteer as table facilitators.

“I believe it’s a worthy investment,” Ansell said.

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