During those busy days spent at the pool, camping in the Badlands or watching bulls buck at the rodeo, it’s sometimes easy to forget to open a book with your children. However, reading with your family doesn’t have to be a chore — it only takes 20 minutes.

During June, Dickinson Public Schools offered families a chance to sit down at Reading Rodeo, which were interactive 90-minute reading sessions that took place at various elementary schools in the city. Though Reading Rodeo has concluded, it has opened up a new venue for July — the Book Corral.

Rhonda Kraenzel, a.k.a. Rhinestone Rhonda, helped initiate this mission of Reading Rodeo and the Book Corral to help families engage in story time as well as offering them tips and advice on how families can make reading fun and enjoyable. The Book Corral will serve as a shared library that’s free to the public.

“We want to have books available for everyone so that the whole family is enjoying reading together, so that children can see their parents to the books as well,” Kraenzel said.

DPS was awarded a Comprehensive Literacy State Development grant. The grant is “pretty comprehensive and pretty expansive as far as what the goals of it are,” Kraenzel said. As the DPS parent literacy liaison, Kraenzel is in charge of supporting parents, working with families and creating a bonding connection between the school system and families as well as developing a strong literacy within the Dickinson community.

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“Research shows how impactful it is for reading and writing to take place in the home from a very early age. And so I am really focusing on developing a reading culture within the home… from birth to grade five,” Kraenzel said.

During the school year, parents and their children have access to books and they can attend literacy events. However, due to the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, most of the literacy events had limitations, Kraenzel said. Conversations soon spurred on how educators can get families more involved with reading at home, especially during the summer months when oftentimes books are unopened and there is limited access to reading opportunities. This is especially true for those families who live in rural areas or socioeconomically disadvantaged, she added.

“So we really started looking at what can we do as the school system — Dickinson Public Schools — what can we do to help these children and the families to keep reading during the summer. Because we know that even 20 minutes a day together reading is so powerful, not only academically, but also socially and relationally within the families,” Kraenzel noted. “It just has really positive effects that develops great meaningful lasting connections… when families sit down together and read together.”

Being that the Western Edge is known for its rodeos and western culture, Rhinestone Rhonda and the idea of Reading Rodeo developed out of those conversations, Kraenzel said, noting that she also wanted to tie it in with the 50th Roughrider Days Fair and Expo. Incorporating farm characters is a great way to allow children to use their imaginations, she added.

With Reading Rodeo, Kraenzel wanted to bring a cultural diversity element to each session so stories are not exclusive and incorporate all audiences. She had help from library media specialists who created a more interactive story time with music and making characters with artwork supplies.

“We wanted to also maybe offer parents some tips on what does reading together look like in your family. Many times people don’t understand that it’s not just reading a book, it’s really talking about what’s happening in that story, making connections with your own life, talking about how the character responded to a problem and how would we respond to that problem,” she said. “(It’s) an opportunity to get to know each other more and understand each other more. That’s one thing that we don’t realize when you read a story or read a book, and it can actually help you in your own life.”

When families come back to the Book Corral in July, they can return books they borrowed at the Reading Rodeo events to the north side of the Hagen Building at 402 Fourth St. W. The Book Corral will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. each Tuesday in July. For more information, call Kraenzel at 701-290-8261.