Read by the River promotes literacy for Medford/Somerville kids

On March 8, children came to Tufts and did arts and crafts at Read by the River, Hillel's children's carnival which promotes literacy in local K-5 students. Emma Kindig / The Tufts Daily

Hundreds of participants turned out for Read by the River, Tufts’ annual literacy carnival, which took place yesterday in the Gantcher Center from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The goal of the carnival, an initiative of Tufts Hillel, is to get kids from kindergarten to fifth grade excited about reading, according to senior Alexandra Zeitouni, the event’s co-chair.

According to Zeitouni, in the week leading up to Read by the River, organizers visited several schools in the area to give short assemblies to kids about the carnival. The organizers handed out short book reports for kids to complete and turn in at the beginning of the carnival, she explained.

“At the carnival, different volunteers will talk with them about the books that they’ve read and go over the book reports with them,” she said. “Then they get a free movie pass in exchange for that, so it’s kind of to incentivize them to keep reading.”

After the children discussed their book reports with student volunteers, they each received a free welcome book, Read by the River Co-chair Steven Hefter said. Hefter, a junior, is also a sports editor at the Daily.

Lauren Bloom, faculty advisor for Read by the River, explained that the event included 20 to 25 booths, each managed by different Tufts organizations and institutions in the community such as Medford and Somerville’s police and fire departments and the libraries of Medford, Somerville and Tufts.

Zeitouni said that student organizations with booths included Greek life organizations, several Hillel initiatives and the Leonard Carmichael Society (LCS) Kid’s Day. Each booth is staffed by about six volunteers and has a different activity such as making bookmarks, doing word searches and face painting, she said.

“Most of them are literacy related, but some of them, like face painting and finger painting, are also there to switch it up a little bit,” Zeitouni added.
According to Hefter, approximately 700 children attend the event each year, accompanied by their families, making Read by the River a huge event. A board of about 20 people began planning for Read by the River in September, Hefter said.

Zeitouni said the event featured a performance by Tufts BEATs and a visit from New England Patriots tackle Jordan Devey and offensive lineman Bryan Stork to read to the kids.

Along with promoting literacy for kids, Zeitouni said she hopes the event connects Tufts to its surrounding community.

“Another I think really important thing that comes from it is that Tufts does engage with the local community because we go to school here, and yet I don’t really feel like we interact with the community,” she said. “To put on an event like this that brings families to our campus and gets them talking about reading … it’s a good way to engage the local community.”

According to Zeitouni, approximately 80 Tufts students volunteered for the event.

“It’s really exciting that the carnival is happening again this year and that so many people in the Tufts community want to get involved, whether it’s just the general volunteers or the organizations that actually host booths at the carnival,” she said. “So I think it’s a really great reflection on the Tufts community that everyone year after year puts in so much work for this … really important cause.”

Bloom added that she hopes both the kids and student volunteers enjoyed the experience.

“It is also very important to see the Tufts community come together for a day of service — a day to support the communities in which we are a part,” she told the Daily in an email.