AmeriCorps Members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove – Words Alive Volunteer Team of the Month - February 2017

Please join us in congratulating the AmeriCorps Members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove Words Alive Volunteer Team of the Month for February 2017!

Our AmeriCorps team members help deliver the Words Alive Family Literacy Program (FLP) to families in need in the Garden Grove community of Orange County.  Words Alive FLP expanded to serve Orange County for the 2016-2017 school year with a goal to reach 300 children 0-5 and their families.

Through We Can Read Orange County!, a grant provided by Children and Families Commission of Orange County, the Orange County United Way, and the Orange County Community Foundation, BGCGG and Words Alive are able to work together to fulfill our missions.

“The Words Alive Family Literacy Program has helped BGCGG be more intentional in the interventions that we offer our families with children ages 0-5. We have identified the most vulnerable communities in Orange County with gaps in resources resulting in low literacy levels. Now we have a curriculum that will show real gains in pre-literacy skills for our youngest Club Members. So far, our AmeriCorps Members have dedicated over 2,000 hours in service through our Readiness on the Road Program. With their service this year we will be able to reach over 300 children.”

-        Christina Sepulveda, Vice President of Programs and Services, Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with our team below!

What is the most rewarding part of your work at BGCGG?

The most rewarding part about my work at BGCGG is knowing that families are creating memories when attending the program. Seeing parents spend quality time with their children is what motivates me to keep doing what I am doing because I know it impacts their lives in a positive way. 

-        Yvette Fuerte, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

The most rewarding part of working for BGCGG is giving back to the families in the community where I grew up in Garden Grove, and actually making a difference in their lives.  It's an amazing feeling.

-        Joanna Calderon, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

The most rewarding part is being able to experience growth in the families and children. I love that we get to sing our hearts out, and are able to provide families with quality care. Every activity has a purpose and most times it's so much fun, that no one even realizes they are learning.

-        Andrea Esparza, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

What is your favorite part of the Words Alive Family Literacy Program?

My favorite part of the Words Alive Family Literacy Program is that children and parents are learning the value of literacy and early learning through fun activities. Also, seeing the children’s love for books grow from week one through week seven. 

-        Yvette Fuerte, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

One of my favorite parts is doing the icebreaker with the parents. There is something beautiful and extraordinary in watching a mom stick her tongue out and slither like a snake, or seeing a dad jump around as he imitates a kangaroo.

-        Andrea Esparza, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

In week 7, when all the families get together and we are able to see the growth in all the kiddos, as well as the cohesiveness of the group. I love to see them networking at the end, and hear them tell each other what other classes might be similar to the one we offer. It's a great feeling!

-        Leslei Emard, BGCGG AmeriCorps Member

Read Aloud Program and Wells Fargo Foundation Support

Reading aloud to young children is the most important thing we can do to help them become lifelong learners and strong readers. In our Read Aloud Program, trained volunteers read aloud each week to approximately 4,300 children from low income communities at early childhood education and Title 1 - eligible elementary school sites across San Diego.

This year our Read Aloud Program continues to grow and develop in order to meet the needs of our community. This program year, our Read Aloud Program is in 110 classrooms in 29 schools throughout San Diego County.

The Wells Fargo Foundation has given Words Alive $15,000 to sustain the work that we are doing. In addition, our partners at the Caster Center continue to help us evaluate our small group model and we hope to expand this model into more classrooms. The small group model allows the students to go deeper with the books our volunteers are reading to them in the classrooms, by providing them opportunities to analyze the text and vocabulary, look for context clues, and relate the books to topics being covered in the classroom. 

We are also expanding our Read Aloud Program into Orange County through our partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Garden Grove.

We'd like to say thank you to the Wells Fargo Foundation for their support of early childhood literacy and our Read Aloud Program. We look forward to making reading matter for thousands of children this year and we could not do this without the support of our partners!

Donor Spotlight: Usborne Books

At Words Alive, the support that we receive to fulfill our mission, to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading, comes in so many different ways. Our work is made possible through the incredible volunteer hours gifted to us each week, grants, event participation, the Read for Life Campaign, book donations, and much more. 

For many of our Family Literacy participants, Words Alive is an introduction to the world of books for our youngest learners. Many of these children receive their first books through our program, a total of 10 new books throughout their seven weeks with us. 

Knowing this, Becky, a new Words Alive Volunteer, reached out to us to coordinate an amazing fundraiser for our Family Literacy Program. Through her connections - her friends, family, colleagues, and social media network - Becky helped us raise over $3,000, including a 50% match from Usborne to purchase 300 copies of 1001 Animals to Spot for each participant in our Family Literacy Program this year! These books will give families even more opportunity to build vocabulary in a fun and exciting way before these preschoolers start kindergarten.

Share the Love Family Literacy Usborne Book Fundraiser

Words Alive is partnering with Usborne Books with a goal of purchasing 300 new 1001 Animals to Spot books for our littlest learners. Usborne Books will be matching 50% of the donations raised in this effort to allow us to meet the need of getting books into the homes of the families who need us most. Low-income neighborhoods have a staggering ratio of 1 age appropriate book for every 300 children compared to their middle-income peers with 13 books for every child. Words Alive Family Literacy Program levels the playing field by giving each family in our program at least 10 books during the 7 week program. You can help! Donate today!

WAWS Personal Statement Workshop

Weil Family Foundation and Price Philanthropies host Personal Statement Workshop for WAWS Students

On Tuesday, January 17th, Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) Students met with community partners from the Weil Family Foundation and Price Philanthropies to work on writing their personal statements.

Personal statements are an important piece of writing that help students identify their role in the world, and writing a personal statement is often a requirement on college applications. During the workshop, students learned how developing a personal statement could help them as they continue their education, apply for scholarships, and begin their career.

Thank you to our partners for helping facilitate this workshop for our WAWS Students. Words Alive offers monthly workshops through the WAWS Program to help support the transition from high school to college, university, and career life. For more information on the work that we do, check out the WAWS page on our website HERE.

San Diego Jewish Film Festival

Words Alive presents Fanny's Journey at the San Diego Jewish Film Festival

Fanny's Journey "is a handsome, compelling period piece that deftly portrays events through the eyes of its young protagonists." - Variety

The Jewish Film Festival is an annual 12-day festival showcasing 60 of the best contemporary Jewish-themed films from around the world. This festival is the largest Jewish Cultural Event in San Diego.

Words Alive is proud to be a Film Festival Community Host for the screening of Fanny's Journey at Clairemont Reading 14 on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 at 11:00AM. As a community host, our Words Alive community receives a $4 Discount when you use the Coupon Code WORD17.

Call or visit the JCC Box Office: 858.362.1348 or visit

Words Alive First Annual Stakeholder Meeting

Looking Forward with Words Alive

Words Alive is hosting our first Annual Stakeholder Meeting to share some of the exciting new ways we are fulfilling our mission, to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading. We value our partners, volunteers, and other stakeholders but are so often so busy with day-to-day business that we don't have the opportunity share opportunities on the close horizon.

Please join us to learn more about the importance of our work and the significance of your support. The Words Alive First Annual Stakeholder Meeting will be taking place on Tuesday, February 28th from 6-7 pm at La Jolla Country Day School, Community Hall. Click here for directions.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP by Wednesday, February 15th. You can RSVP by filling out this form. We look forward to seeing you there!

Katie Collins - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - January 2017

Please join us in congratulating Katie Collins Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for January 2017!

Katie began volunteering with Words Alive in October of this year. She is a full-time student at the University of San Diego, studying English, history, and education.  She joined us for the fall semester as an intern to help develop our Adolescent Book Group Program curriculum – a great learning opportunity for her, and a great help for the program!  She has been a wonderful addition, diligent in helping develop the program’s online content and web page, and creative with the advancement of our curriculum guides which we use program-wide to facilitate book group discussions in the classroom.  This January she will be traveling outside of the country to study abroad and has dedicated some time to continue her support of the program.

Katie, you have been such a professional and impressive volunteer intern, and we are so appreciative of the hard work you have done and continue to do for the Adolescent Book Group Program and for our organization.  Thank you!

Check Out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Katie Below!

Katie, tell us a little about yourself! 
I am a junior at the University of San Diego, born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. I am double majoring in English and History with a minor in Education, and my dream is to teach in an underserved, urban area in the United States. My favorite things to do include reading, yoga, rock climbing, and trying out new coffee shops. I will be spending the next five months in Buenos Aires, Argentina in a study abroad program, living with a host family, and taking all of my classes in Spanish, which will be extremely challenging for me but equally rewarding. 

How long have you been volunteering with Words Alive, and how did you get involved? 
4 months - I googled foundations or organizations in San Diego where I could combine my love of reading with the goal of promoting literacy with a classroom element. Words Alive was the first result, and I looked into our website and contacted Christina immediately!

What is the most rewarding aspect of your volunteer service with Words Alive?
So far my favorite contribution has been the opportunity to read and analyze The Glass Castle for the Teen Services program where I intern with Theresa. This memoir was so powerful and one of my favorite books I read in 2016. I loved being able to create a curriculum guide from scratch, knowing that my work would directly influence and guide classroom discussions among the in-class volunteers and students of the program. It excites me that the schools we work with are departing from the purely Eurocentric literary canon in favor of more contemporary and diverse material, which is all the more poignant and crucial to promote, now more than ever.

And, by the way, what are you reading lately?
I am currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which was published about six months ago, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone! It follows two sisters in the late eighteenth century from a village in Ghana. One marries a slave-trader, and one is sold into slavery. I am almost finished with it, and I have no doubt that it is one of the best books that I have ever read. It is so important to promote own voice narratives and diverse literature. I cannot promote this novel enough.

Why You Should Invest in Early Childhood Literacy

At Words Alive, we see first-hand the value of early education programs through our work with preschoolers, early elementary school-aged children, and their families in our Read Aloud and Family Literacy Programs. But what are the tangible and measurable long-term benefits to programs such as these?

While there is research showing that high-quality early education programs are valuable, especially for disadvantaged children, there wasn’t much research that analyzed the long term effects of these programs until recently. Nobel Laureate James Heckman and co-authors Jorge Luis Garcia, Duncan Ermini Leaf, and Maria Jose Prados have published a new paper, The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, that answers this question.

The researchers analyzed two early education programs in North Carolina - the Carolina Abecedarian Project (ABC) and the Carolina Approach to Responsive Education (CARE) - both of which work with children from eight weeks old to age five. The programs collected data on the participants on a whole range of factors, including health, quality of life, participation in crime, labor income, IQ and education, and the researchers continued to follow-up with participants through the age of 35.

Through doing this research, Heckman and his colleagues discovered the many ways in which these programs provide long-term benefits to both the participants and to the greater community. Some of the benefits that individual participants experienced compared to a control group were: more developed social and emotional skills (including self-control and the ability to monitor), increased education, reduced health care costs, reduced crime, greater earnings, and higher IQ. The children also had access to health screenings as part of the programs and were therefore more likely to be physically healthier.

“What is turning out from this body of research is that promoting engagement of children, their cognitive and non-cognitive skills, boosting their IQs, at the same time boosting their social engagement, their willingness to participate in society, monitoring their health from an early age, is having huge benefits downstream for the rest of their lives.”

In terms of benefits for the greater community, the researchers found that these early education programs not only benefited the children but also allowed their parents to live fuller, healthier lives. Especially in single-parent homes, access to quality childcare allows single parents to pursue work and education opportunities that might not have otherwise been possible.

In addition, when looking at larger societal issues such as crime rates, you can start to see how these early education programs have the potential to influence the greater society. Heckman argues that we tend to look at these problems and search for solutions in a very limited way, by “looking at one problem at a time and one solution very closely linked to that problem.” From Heckman’s research, we know that the children in these early education programs exhibit lower crime rates compared to their peers in the control group. As such, maybe programs such as these can start to be viewed as bigger picture solutions to these very specific issues affecting society.

There is no doubt that these high-quality early education programs are expensive. But Heckman argues that although the programs are costly up-front, when you consider all of the benefits that these programs provide and monetize those benefits, what you’re left with is a return of 13% per annum on the original up-front investment in the program. This is a huge return on investment.

At Words Alive, we like to say that when everyone can read, whole communities thrive. When you are investing in Words Alive and the programs that we offer, you are investing in the futures of the children participating in our programs and a future society that is healthier and more fulfilled. And as it turns out, investment in early childhood education programs, such as our Read Aloud and Family Literacy Programs, is one of the best investments you can make!

Read more about James Heckman and his research here:

Winter Yearick - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month - December 2016

Winter Yearick.jpg

Please join us in congratulating Winter YearickWords Alive Volunteer of the Month for December 2016!

Winter joined the Words Alive family earlier this year, and has jumped right in!  She began her involvement participating with the organization’s Event Committee, and was an invaluable source of support at the event in October. Winter exhibited such positivity and professionalism while monitoring the event’s silent auction.  She stayed past her shift to ensure the event wrapped up smoothly, and calmly handled all aspects of the closeout that were passed her way.

On top of volunteering for the luncheon, Winter shared her love of reading by supporting the Adolescent Book Group Program. Over the summer, while school wasn't in session, she volunteered to review books to add to our curriculum list. Reviewing books for our curriculum list allows for more options for our teachers.  This is how we learn of great books to share with our students and thus, enhance our program.

Winter, thank you for your time and dedication to Words Alive. Every little detail, and second of your time is appreciated.  We're grateful to have you on the Words Alive volunteer team!

Check Out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Winter Below!

Winter, tell us a little about yourself! 
I’m a business professional originally from the East Coast, but love being in San Diego now. Most of my time is divided between work and my family, but I try to find time to enjoy all that the area has to offer. I also love to cook and read in my spare time.

How long have you been volunteering with Words Alive, and how did you get involved? 
I started volunteering in July of this year, so I’m still a newbie to the group!  I wanted an organization that I could relate to and felt passionate about their cause. I’ve always been a big reader and want others to share in my love of books, so when I saw Words Alive pop up in an email from someone I was intrigued. The more I read about the organization and the more I learned about the challenges the San Diego community faces, the more strongly I felt to get involved. I reached out to the group, and here I am now!

What is the most rewarding aspect of your volunteer service with Words Alive?
I really enjoyed seeing the fundraiser come together. To see so many people come together who feel passionately about literacy and opportunities for our youth is inspiring, and reminds me that we all have the ability to make a positive impact on someone else’s life. Surrounding myself with other people who want to make a difference has been the most rewarding part for me.

And, by the way, what are you reading lately?
I’m currently working my way through the Tess Gerritsen ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ series. I’m on a murder mystery kick at the moment, but I’m also reading ‘Helen of Troy’ by Margaret George on the side- it helps to balance out the scary!