As we celebrate our wider national community this July 4, CLiF wanted to share an example of “community literacy.” Spotlight on Morrisville, VT.
CLiF first visited Morrisville in Summer 2015 when the Morristown After School Program (MASP) applied for a Summer Readers program. MASP participants have developed a relationship with David Martin over the past three years. David brings his favorite children’s books, books he has written, his juggling skills, and sometimes his guitar to excite kids with all types of storytelling.
CLiF’s influence in Morrisville deepened when we served the first and third grade buddies through the Community Building grant. The two teachers were using their “buddies” time to learn more about Meals on Wheels. They added a Reading with Seniors component. Learning and connecting with community helps both seniors and children to feel more hopeful and less likely to engage in harmful behavior (for seniors this means isolation and for kids this means addictions.)
Kids and seniors read together five times between February and June. They trooped down the hill from school to the Lamoille Senior Center carrying their books in their CLiF backpacks. By June, it was hard to get the kids to stop reading.
The grant included: a book giveaway to get kids books of interest to them that they could master and share with seniors, books for the classrooms, and a “training” with a CLiF presenter. Each component had individual benefits, but it is the unexpected benefits that also make the program successful with long-lasting impact.
Simon Brooks presented at the school unrelated to CLiF, and he came into the classroom as the special guest for their book giveaway. Simon talked with kids about their fractures fairy tales writing program, and then offered their teacher some additional resources to strengthen that writing unit.
When Geof Hewitt visited to talk with the kids and seniors about sharing books, he left behind a treasure with one of the third grade boys. Geof brought “The Little Fur Book”, which is exactly what it claims. One boy asked for one, and Geof gave it to him as a gift. He wrote: “I asked him to share it with the other students, but that he can keep it. He wants to write or draw on the final (blank) pages. I said that would be fine — it’s his book, but I’m hoping he’ll read it with his mates!”
Way to make books cool!
The first grade teacher shared this story: “I have a student in my class who I have been keeping an eye on their reading. For the sake of this email I am going to give the student a pseudo name: ‘Jill’. Jill has formed a bond with one particular senior at the senior center. Jill is always very excited to go downtown and the last time we visited, the senior gave Jill a book. Jill treasures this book and has been working hard on it for the past week (the book is 6 levels above where I last tested her). Today Jill read me their book flawlessly, with nearly perfect tone and fluency. She even taught it to some other students. A child I was once worried about not seeing herself as a reader has been greatly impacted by our collaborative work! Thank you to everyone involved. Even if it is just her, we have made a great difference!”
But, it was not just her:
– A story from delivering meals with MOWLC: One group of students walked 3 miles to go deliver meals in a Retirement Community. Students introduced themselves, helped to put meals in the fridge or on counters and took turns passing out milks. After stopping by one resident’s apartment, the client remarked, “You made my day!”
– Long-time CLiF supporter North Country Federal Credit Union opened a branch in Morrisville. They funded the program and sent staff to share in the book giveaway.
– On the last Reading with Seniors visit, the students divided in half and swapped their reading time with a tour at the public library. All MES students had met the public librarian during their regular library classes that same week when she came to talk about summer reading programs, but these two classes actually went to the library. As is the unfortunate norm in many communities, too many children had never been there.
And in the classroom, “we have observed students reading in environments outside of the regular classroom reading time. Students have been reading to seniors at the senior center, at the bus stop and outside of reading time in the classroom.”
“Also, another one of my students yelled at me when read to self was over today and insisted on reading two more books before having choice (free time). Wow!”
As CLiF begins its strategic planning process, we would love to know how we can make teachers in your community say that their CLiF helped them have an experience that was “a highlight of the year for us” that helped their kids have “incentive and inspiration to push their reading further”.
Meredith Scott oversees CLiF programs with a focus on developing our long-term, in-depth program model. She ensures CLiF’s partners reap the benefits of a community-wide culture of literacy both during their sponsorships and long after the sponsorship has ended.
Note: This article was originally posted on the Children’s Literacy Foundation blog.