GREENSBORO — "Trip-trap, trip-trap," read parent Jennifer Aguilera, practicing a passage from "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" with her classmates.
In another classroom, her son Salvador stomped his feet as instructor Tameka Owens read from the book and encouraged him to help make the "trip-trap" noise — that of a goat walking across a bridge.
Both mother and son are participating in a 10-week literacy program offered by Reading Connections, a Guilford County nonprofit. Parents, mostly immigrants learning English, hone reading skills while their children separately also practice reading. At the end of each evening session, families take home a copy of the book of the night to read together.
The idea is to help parents boost their own literacy while encouraging their children's reading, too.
The program, which is more than a dozen years old, is expanding. Last year, Reading Connections served 90 adults and 170 children at three sites around Guilford County. This school year, they have five sites ongoing or planned and expect to add a sixth or offer a second round at one of the current sites.
Any parents who want to work on their reading can participate, along with their children, from infants up through fifth grade. A meal, classes and book are free. Families that attend 70% of the classes can earn $50 at the end of the program.
Rebekah King, the program coordinator, said staff and volunteers look to balance learning with fun, so that children and parents will want to come back.
"There's some kids who will ask their mom: 'Are we going to the party in the cafeteria?'" she said.
On a recent Tuesday night at Rankin Elementary, volunteers lined up to scoop pasta, chicken and broccoli onto plates. Parents and children trickled in.
In one corner of the cafeteria, parent Yi Win and her neighbors chatted in Karen, a language spoken in Burma.
At the opposite end of the room, Gilma de Bermudez quizzed adult literacy instructor Ben Michelson on the meanings of shuck, shock and shook — three words the mother had been hearing on her smartphone's English-language learning app.
Children and parents assembled goat puppets made from paper bags as dinner wrapped up.
"Hello, hello! Baa! Chiva! Hola!" called out Salvador to Aguilera as he operated his new goat puppet. "Chiva" is a word for "goat" in Spanish.
After dinner, parents and children divided into classes. There were three classes for parents, based on their reading ability. For children, there's a group for infants and toddlers, a pre-K class and an elementary school class.
Children in the elementary class practice reading the book of the night and get help with homework.
Daniela Sosa, a fifth-grader from Erwin Elementary, said she especially likes how a variety of volunteers help with homework.
In his pre-K class, Salvador listened to a reading of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," made a goat mask and worked on pasting cutouts of small, medium and large goats beneath the words corresponding to their sizes.
Meanwhile, in the intermediate adult class, instructor Aran Garnett-Deakin was offering Aguilera, de Bermudez and a handful of other parents some advice on how to make the story interesting for children when reading it aloud. She suggested using a high voice for the smallest billy goat and a deep voice for the largest one.
One other tip: The bigger the goat crossing the bridge, the louder they could read the "trip-trap" part.
Parents laughed as they read and discussed the book and eventually split up into pairs for more practice.
After nearly two hours, the instructors released the parents and they headed down the hall and around the corner to pick up their children.
Win, who worked on reading "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" in one of the other adult classes, stopped by the elementary class for her daughter and the infant-toddler class for her son, scooping him into her arms.
"I want to learn for my kids," she said.