RICHLAND, Wash. – In light of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order by Gov. Jay Inslee, as well as K-12 schools not returning to in-person learning throughout the state, Washington State University Tri-Cities launched a new website dedicated to educational children’s activities and a new reading program where kids virtually read along with WSU Tri-Cities faculty and can earn WSU prizes.

The website features a variety of do-it-at-home activities ranging from those that pertain to WSU and Coug spirit, such as creating your own Butch T. Cougar mask, to science experiments and other fun activities using supplies that most families likely already have and use in their home.

Additionally, through the new “Super Coug Readers” program in partnership with The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia, children can watch videos of WSU Tri-Cities faculty reading their favorite books. Children can also earn prizes for completing a Super Coug Readers reading calendar and/or completing a “Super Coug Readers Bingo” challenge.

The project is being led by the WSU Tri-Cities community engagement team in partnership with the WSU Tri-Cities College of Education and The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia.

“As a public university, we saw an opportunity to provide children and their families with fun and educational activities that are safe and readily available to complete in their own homes, especially during this unusual time,” said Jaime Heppler, WSU Tri-Cities executive director of advancement and community engagement. “Many parents, such as myself, are looking for engaging activities for their kids. This new website and reading program provide activities that foster learning and curiosity. We are excited to offer this as a resource for our regional families.”

Benefits of reading aloud with your kids

Elizabeth Barnes, executive director of the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia, said children who read for at least 20 minutes per day score in the 90th percentile in standardized tests, are successful in school, are more likely to graduate from college and become successful in life.

“The skills and knowledge you gain from reading or being read to from birth are astronomical,” she said. “This is a very natural partnership for The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia and WSU Tri-Cities, as both organizations are trying to better the community through education.”

Barnes said children reading along with WSU Tri-Cities faculty presents a great way for children to be exposed to different educational opportunities and careers that are available in the regional Tri-Cities community.

“What kind of impact could an engineering professor have on a young girl and her parents if they were to hear ‘Rosie Revere, Engineer,’ for the first time?” she said. “What kind of connections to the real world could this have on a family that may never have contemplated a life for their daughter in the sciences?”

Reading with industry experts – WSU Tri-Cities faculty

Sara Sorensen Petersen, a WSU Tri-Cities clinical assistant professor of education and board member with the Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia, said she and her fellow faculty members are excited to provide educational opportunities for regional students to learn from faculty members in a range of fields and from a range of backgrounds and cultures.

“Speaking as a mom and an educator, it is great for kids to see others than mom and dad reading, as well as see professionals in their communities and learn a bit more about what they do,” she said. “We have female science professors, for example, that could inspire young girls to think about a career in the sciences. It’s just a great tie-in and presents a great opportunity for our local families.”

A free resource for families

The new Cougar Family Fun website is available for free and accessible to the public.

Additionally, The Children’s Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia is supplying WSU Tri-Cities with an assortment of children’s books that will be given out at the WSU Tri-Cities Cougar Cupboard sponsored by Lamb Weston food pantry, in addition to food pick-up locations in Pasco and Kennewick for WSU Tri-Cities students and their families. More information on pick-up locations and how to donate can be found online.