'Twas a dark and stormy (week) night. Cold, too.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear but a parking lot at Westview Elementary that was packed full. For a Family Literacy Night?! What magic had been used to produce this crowd?

Principal Rusty Boston shared a few of his secrets. He arranged fun programs for the students (origami, dance, cookie decorating and pet care presented by the local SPCA).

He also resorted to bribery, (homework passes and ice cream). The best part about bribery is that it works.

While the kids were engaged with their activities, parents were rotating around various presentations that included the Web-based learning programs used at Westview, the school reading program and programs on reproductive health.

At each presentation, they got their cards signed so that any parent with three signatures received a free copy of "Ten Tips for Raising Readers." The class that racked up the most participating parents received an ice cream party.

The pressure!

Meanwhile, back at the school library, one of my heroes, media specialist Lanora Rogers, was finishing her presentation on Internet safety. This is news that parents need, and they were listening carefully and asking questions.

When it was my turn, a new group of parents seated themselves at the round tables. A few babies dozed in their carriers. I talked about my new book, "Ten Tips for Raising Readers."

One father told us that his daughter had received the complete "Twilight" series for Christmas. They read the books in tandem, and then went to the movie together. What a wonderful way to bond with a child!

Another dad explained that his parents had never read a word to him. When he and his wife adopted a baby boy, the father sought out the best books and read to his son every day. Now, the son is an enthusiastic reader in fourth grade. It makes me smile just to think about that father and son discovering the joys of children's literature together.

On yet another dark and stormy and cold night, I went to St. Stephen's Elementary School for their literacy program. Children attended with their parents and contributed their views on which books were hot and which were not.

One mother came by herself because her daughter was doing homework. She asked me to talk about the problem of children reading books with disturbing content.

The book in question was "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" by John Boyne. It's short, relatively easy to read, and tells the devastating story of children in a Nazi death camp.

Both parents and children in the audience had thoughtful, practical ideas for this mom. They suggested reading the book together, talking about the book, going to see the movie together. I was a spectator, observing as parents and children used their own experiences to help each other.

I felt privileged to have visited these schools. I learned a lot and gained even more respect for our educators and parents.

Contact Fran Hawk at franbooks@yahoo.com. Fran Hawk is the author of "Ten Tips for Raising Readers." For more info, visit www.thereadingwarehouse.com.