Award-winning children’s author and Van Alstyne resident Debbie Reece was one of several prominent community members to participate in the Van Alstyne Elementary Family Literacy Night on Jan. 22.

As a member of the community, with a child in the VAISD, Reece was invited to participate in the VAE Family Literacy Night, an event put together by the school’s Campus Improvement Team. The team invited local figures from Van Alstyne to come read to the children. City Manager Frank Baker, Police Chief Tim Barnes, VAISD Superintendent Dr. John Spies, area pastors and physicians all took time out of their evening to attend the event and read stories to the children.

Those children, accompanied by adults, donned their snuggly pajamas and traveled from room to room hearing special stories, such as Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Fancy Nancy and Bubba the Cowboy Prince. The parents also had the opportunity to travel to each different grade level to learn strategies and tips for encouraging reading.

There was a large turnout, especially for such a cold, wet evening. The classrooms vibrated with giggles and sighs, the teachers shared their knowledge with the parents through slides and discussions and the halls were full of happy families reading, giggling and enjoying the sights.

The evening ended with cookies and milk and a special presentation by Reece. She read her latest release to a packed cafeteria of children and adults. Reece shared how her story is inspired by the halls and the students of Van Alstyne Elementary. From the music classroom with chairs in a semi-circle, to colored tiles in the halls, The Worst Day Ever! is a story inspired by her son, his classmates and Van Alstyne Elementary. She encouraged adults to read with the children.

"Take the time to read, even just a few minutes a few times a week," she said. "Reading with a child on your lap teaches more that you realize. You are teaching them how to be patient and take care of property. How to think about what will happen next, or how does that feel. It also teaches them they have a soft place to land, to feel safe and loved."

Reeced read her story to the crowd, stopping every now and then to ask the children, "How do you think he feels" or "What is happening now?"

Reece signed copies of both her books and returned the next day to donate a percentage of her sales back to the library for literacy needs.