Literacy

Executive Skills in Reading and Learning!

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

An image of two children exploring a book with their parent in our Family Literacy Program.

An image of two children exploring a book with their parent in our Family Literacy Program.

Executive skills are a set of skills and “brain tools” used to manage tasks, behaviors, and one’s own thoughts in order to achieve and accomplish goals. From an early age, executive skills play an important role in cognitive functions, such as reading comprehension and overall learning. According to Kelly Cartwright, (author of Executive Skills and Reading Comprehension: A Guide for Educators [2015, Guilford Press]), students who have difficulties with reading comprehension, ‘despite having age-appropriate word reading skills, have lower levels of executive skills than their peers with higher comprehension’. In addition, students may not be able to fully understand or gain sufficient knowledge from information taken from vital core subjects in school, which include science, math, or social studies, especially if they cannot comprehend what they read.

The key components of executive skills for reading comprehension can be broken down into three main categories: Cognitive Flexibility, Working Memory, and Inhibition.

Cognitive Flexibility is the ability to shift from one activity to another, or back and forth between important components of a task. It relies on how you think about a situation, as well as what you think about it. Other skill sets that pertain to Cognitive Flexibility include:

  • Open-mindedness in terms of different opinions and perspectives. 

  • Willingness to accept and risk mistakes.

  • Considering different methods for problem solving.

  • Engaging in learning, discovery, and innovative creativity.

When reading, all these factors included with cognitive flexibility allow for a student to actively shift focus between many important parts of reading, such as word and text meanings, letter-sound information, and sentence grammar. 

Working Memory is the capacity to hold information in mind for a period of time and use that information for the particular work/task to achieve goals. In reading, working memory is necessary to comprehend the meaning of a text by keeping in mind what you have already read. As you read, you update your understanding of the written text. Children use working memory to sound out words in order to memorize and remember different letter sounds, then put them together to figure out what the word is. Working memory also helps with: 

  • Following instructions.

  • Reading an unknown word.

  • Paraphrasing/Summarizing written information. 

  • Answering questions, as well as asking them.

  • Organizing words or sentences. 

Inhibition refers to one’s control of stopping automatic and impulsive responses, while at the same time, ignoring irrelevant distractions that would otherwise interfere with one’s main focus for a certain goal. To be a good inhibitionist, one must think before acting. This skill is also necessary when trying to comprehend reading. People who are good at comprehension will leave out the irrelevant words or text that do not connect with the main themes, ideas, messages, or instructions being brought out by the reading. Inhibitionists will be able to point out and locate the most effective sources of the text, while leaving out the irrelevant ones.

Teach Them at an Early Age 

According to research, children with better executive function skills perform better on literacy exams. Children who begin to learn how to read and write acquire their executive skills through pre-literacy training, such as recognizing and sounding out letters. Once they are able to master pre-literacy skills, their executive skills will increasingly continue into reading comprehension and other more complex abilities. 

Cognitive flexibility, working memory, and inhibition are also obtained from an early age when children are learning to read and write. For children, working memory has to do with helping a child keep a main topic or a goal on paper while writing, as well as helping them with remembering the spelling and grammar rules. 

Cognitive flexibility helps children think of different ways to say things, especially in writing. It encourages kids to think more about what is being read, by putting what is written into different sentences, or explaining it in different ways. 

Inhibition control is the process of brainstorming: to gather thoughts and ideas for planning before the writing process. ‘It is needed when encountering words with multiple meanings, by choosing the correct meaning in the context of the story and ignoring its other meanings’. An example of this could be when differentiating between words that have different meanings, such as “bat”, which could be used to either describe a baseball bat or the animal.

Long Term Benefits for Building Executive Skills 

These three skills (cognitive flexibility, working memory, & inhibition) for executive function are crucial for academic performance. It helps students organize their work more efficiently, and engage with learning through a wider variety of options, rather than just glueing one’s eyes to a book and reading through the text just once. These skills and methods help young students absorb the actual information given by the text, and helps their minds process it in a more successful manner.

In addition, students will not only have better reading comprehension, but it will allow them to effectively manage and control their own behavior, regulate overall thinking and learning, regulate emotional processes, impulses, and develop peer relations through friendship and strong communication.  

Sources: 

  • https://keystoliteracy.com/blog/executive-skills-and-reading-comprehension/

  • https://npjscilearncommunity.nature.com/users/20252-judy-willis/posts/19380-building-students-cognitive-flexibility

  • https://reflectionsciences.com/literacy-executive-function/

  • https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/working-memory/

The 30-Million Word Gap

By Omar Jawdat, Blog Intern

An image of a child and parent reading together in our Family Literacy Program.

An image of a child and parent reading together in our Family Literacy Program.

The 30-Million Word Gap? 

Does poverty affect a child’s vocabulary and grammatical skills? According to studies conducted by education researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley, “the average welfare child had 1/2 as much experience per hour (616 words per hour) as the average working class child (1,251 words per hour.), and less than 1/3 as much experience as the average professional class child (2,153 per hour).” From their study, they also concluded that the word-gap between children in upper income households and those in low-income households was 30 million words. In addition, the qualitative aspects of these children’s language environments were also measured. Nonetheless, the 30 million words became a popluar statistic in literacy and education circles, but in recent years has been questioned more and more.

In 2017, another study was conducted by Senior Director of Research and Evaluation, Dr. Jill Gilkerson. Her method involved using technology, rather than Hart and Risley’s method of intrusive observers. The study collected 49,765 hours of recording from 329 families by using the LENA (Language Environment Analysis) system, which automatically generates an estimate of the “number of adult words in the child's environment, the amount of caregiver–child interaction, and the frequency of child vocal output”’: (pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2016_AJSLP-15-0169

The results seemed to be more effective, and it concluded that the word gap was much smaller than 30 million words. According Gilkerson, only a ‘4-million word gap was present between those highly educated, high socioeconomic status (SES) parents and those with a lower SES.  

How Did This Idea Begin?

One of the first studies that introduced the notion of the ‘word-gap’ began in the 1980’s with Hart and Risley. The study was mentioned in their book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, which wasn’t published until 1992. The study was composed of 42 families at four levels of income and education, from low income to “professional class” families. From infants to toddlers up to age 3, the number of words spoken by these children, which included engaged communication activities with their parents (such as questions and commands), and the growth in words produced by the children were recorded.

Their hopes and aims were to help improve student outcomes of academic progress later on in school by catching onto the problem of the ‘word-gap’ from an early age. However, the word-gap study is not as simple as it may seem.  

Ethnic Considerations 

Another reason for speculations regarding this statistic is due to the fact that many children come from different ethnic backgrounds. This means that the study must also include data based on early development of different languages spoken (children who become bilingual), and whether or not children are being taught more than one language as they grow. This abstracts the number of words spoken in a household. Anya Kamenetz says that “Sperry (Lead author of Child Development) and his co-authors fall into a camp that criticizes the ‘word gap’ concept as racially and culturally loaded in a way that ultimately hurts the children whom early intervention programs are ostensibly trying to help.”  

Around the 1980’s, 10.68% of the U.S. population was bilingual. Since 2016, the percentage has risen to 20%. Today, it is estimated that 22% of the nation is bilingual. Some children grow up learning the native language of their parents, then English, or vice versa. Professor of Education at the University of California, Los Angeles, Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, mentions the idea of learning a second language as ‘word wealth’. Children who grow up learning a different language or even a different dialect other than English, (the dominant/most common language spoken in school), actually shows more experience in children at an early age. “This would describe not only recent immigrants, but also anyone whose background isn't white, educated and middle or upper class. When they get to school, they must learn to ‘code switch’ between two ways of speaking”.

The Truth Behind the Matter

While it is important to keep a steady statistic or well-formulated theory about the ‘word-gap’ amongst children, it is also important to realize that a child’s environment and socioeconomic status may not always be the main reason for a child’s vocabulary skills. There are several other factors at play. 

These factors include how effective parents, preschools, and other related learning programs are in helping children develop their language from an early stage of their adolescence. Children who are prone to hearing and witnessing verbal abuse, a lack of communication, and distracting language from their parents, siblings, and other relatives could also interfere with a child’s normal appropriate learning speech. Roberta Golinkoff calls this type of language ‘ambient’, which may also have an impact on early language development. Other ambients could include television, radio, and adult conversations where kids are not directly spoken to, but are in the midst of the environment where the child could hear. 

Other Speculations

Hirsh-Pasek adds, “the sheer volume of conversation directed at children, not just spoken in their presence, is fundamental to language learning and later success in school.” While this may be an important asset in early language development, Douglas Sperry points out that in other cultures, such as the Mayan Culture in Central America, for example, it is uncommon for adults to address children directly, and yet these children still learn to speak adequately. 

Orellana also disagrees that there is a “variation of speech” depending on how much adults speak to children. Instead, she believes that “other values, like using language to entertain or connect, rather than just have children perform their knowledge” can be effective with the process of speech and language development.   

Although the word-gap study may not be necessarily accurate, the key intention is to investigate and understand what is beneficial for students in order to achieve greater success in school. Learning how to communicate effectively in the household is the first step to learn how to engage with the outside world. 

Sources:

  • https://shanahanonliteracy.com/blog/is-there-really-a-30-million-word-gap

  • https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/06/01/615188051/lets-stop-talking-about-the-30-million-word-gap

  • https://www.leadersproject.org/2013/03/17/meaningful-differences-in-the-everyday-experience-of-young-american-children/

  • https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2016_AJSLP-15-0169

  • https://www.lena.org/advisors/jill-gilkerson-phd

  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/life-bilingual/201809/the-amazing-rise-bilingualism-in-the-united-states

Dyslexia Awareness Month!

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

What is Dyslexia?

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, a time to bring more attention to what dyslexia is and how best to work with those who are dyslexic. The International Dyslexia Association characterizes the learning disability as difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. Consequences from dyslexia can include problems with reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Unrelated to a person’s cognitive abilities, dyslexia has many positive consequences, including helping individuals become highly resilient and adaptable, articulate and expressive of thoughts and feelings, empathetic, and having the ability to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture.

Who Is Impacted By Dyslexia and What Is Being Done About It?

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity states that dyslexia effects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of those with a learning disability. Due to the prevalence of dyslexia, thirty-nine of the fifty states have introduced dyslexia related legislation, which are outlined on . The National Center on Improving Literacy website in detail. California, as one of these states, has a bill that requires guidelines to be prepared to assist teachers and parents in identifying dyslexia as well as provide improved educational services to these students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides the accommodation for students with dyslexia to have additional time to take exams, believed to be one of the most critical accommodations that allows students to succeed alongside students without the learning disability.

How Best to Teach Those With Dyslexia?

Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) is a method that is frequently used to teach individuals with dyslexia. Also termed Scientific Word Investigation, WordWorksKingston.com describes one of the guiding principles behind the method to be: the conventions by which English spelling represents meaning are so well-ordered and reliable that spelling can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry. The Nueva school, a California-based school, summarizes the method into a few simple steps: The method starts with students brainstorming a way to define the word, using knowledge they already have. From there, they look at the structure of the word before diving into the etymology of the word as well as what the prefix, suffix, or base word is. Then, the students explore if there are any related words, before visually representing them in what has been termed a “Word Sum”. Lastly, the students debrief about what they learned about that particular word family. By going through this inquiry process, students learn more about the background of the word and are given the tools to learn new words on their own.

If you believe your child or student has dyslexia, but aren’t sure where to start, many of the websites listed below have additional resources. Another resource that is frequently cited by national and international dyslexia organizations is Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

Events such as Dyslexia Awareness Month helps to bring attention to the 20% of our population who have dyslexia. Through this additional time and recognition, students are given the opportunity to learn to read and succeed alongside their peers.

Sources:

https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/

https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia/california

http://wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Structured_Word_Inquiry.html

https://www.nuevaschool.org/student-experience/lower-school/structured-word-inquiry

The Psychology of Reading

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

An image of two children standing in a green field while reading books.

Our minds go through an entire array of thoughts, feelings, and emotions while we read. There are also numerous background activities going on in the brain while we read that enhance literary experiences and can have both short and long-term effects on the reader.

What Happens While You’re Reading A Book?

To you, reading may just seem like a daily task, requiring you to repeatedly run your eyes across the page to get the information you desire. However, an article on the Open Education Database (OEDB) enumerates several other processes our minds perform in the background to allow reading to give us the knowledge and satisfaction we need.

The first on the list: visualization while reading is involuntary. The article states that visual imagery is simply an automatic reaction that doesn’t require an outside prompt. This allows the reader to simultaneously imagine whole new worlds as the words on the page slowly piece it together for them. Also mentioned in the OEDB article, our brain doesn’t make a distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it. The same neurological regions are stimulated despite if it is a real experience, or just reading about one.

What Happens After You Finish the Book?

Fiction books are meant to pull the readers in and create connection to the characters, empathizing with them in the process. After a few hundred pages of relating to the main characters, it can be tough when the book inevitably ends, severing the connection between the reader. In these cases, when you have been completely enveloped in a novel, people have said they experience a “Book Hangover”. These are generally experienced after those books you can’t put down, or after a cliffhanger conclusion. Although there is no science behind why people experience these literary “hangovers”, an article by Psychology Today summarizes three aspects of art in literature that can affect personality, long after you’ve closed the back cover:

  1. Reading fiction can give you social expertise, by allowing you step into the world of the characters and navigate through social situations with them.

  2. Literature can destabilize personality by enabling the reader to empathize through the ups and downs of the plot. This can in turn allow the reader to open up to their own inner experiences.

  3. Literature is an indirect communication method that encourages the reader to make inferences about how the characters are feeling. In the same way that people learn to understand how and why people feel the way they do, literature helps one understand in a similar way.

Words Alive knows that reading is not only an engaging activity for the mind, but it can have long lasting effects on the social and emotional side of the reader as well. We aim to provide the tools needed to underserved students and families so that they can fully reap the benefits of reading. If you would like to learn more about the programs that we offer and get involved, visit our page here.

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201501/how-reading-can-change-you-in-major-way

https://oedb.org/ilibrarian/your-brain-on-books-10-things-that-happen-to-our-minds-when-we-read/



Learning English as a Second Language

An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

An image of four students in one of our Read Aloud Program sessions looking through a book together.

In 2015, there were 4.8 million students, or 9.5%, of students in the United States public school system reported as English language learners. This means they are people who are going through school learning English in addition to their native language, often times without any additional support other than immersion. This statistic from the the National Center for Education Statistics has increased by over 25% since 2000. Furthermore, California has the highest percentage of English language learners, at 21% of students in public schools -- this is more than double the countrywide average.

These English Second Language (ESL) learners have their own individual sets of challenges, beyond those that monolingual students face. In an article on EverythingESL.net, Judie Haynes, an ESL teacher with more than 28 years of experience and several publications, discusses the various challenges she has seen bilingual students face in literary environments. A main challenge she referenced is the fact that literature is culture bound, meaning that there is a certain set of stories and literary genres that English speakers are expected to know from an early age. These stories are then built upon in later learning, leaving those that were born into a different culture lacking the background knowledge to understand the author’s intent. Some other challenges that can also be overlooked for ESL students is understanding our metaphors, idioms, and other forms of figurative language, that also tend to be culture bound. Beyond that, word order, syntax, and sentence structure differ in English compared to other languages.

ESL students also experience some amazing benefits to being bilingual. Not only is this a plus for future employment opportunities, but school-age children have a different mindset about learning language in general. In an article published for Lamar University about the benefits of ESL, the following cognitive tasks, among others, were cited to be easier for bilingual students: developing strong thinking skills, using logic, focusing, memory, and making decisions. The article also discussed that these students utilize a blocking technique to focus on choosing words from one language while blocking the matching word from the other language. This same blocking technique is employed to ignore distracting information, allowing them to have a stronger focus. This can also be translated into social situations, allowing bilingual students to block out what they already know and instead focus on two different dissenting perspectives to have a better understanding of an overall issue.

As a Southern California based non-profit, many of Words Alive’s participants have learned English as their second language. We work with these students to ensure that they are able to further their critical thinking and literary analysis skills while using their personal experiences to help relate to the books and deepen their understanding of the text.

If you are interested in funding or volunteering for our hands-on literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=96

https://degree.lamar.edu/articles/education/the-benefits-of-esl.aspx

http://www.everythingesl.net/inservices/challenges_ells_content_area_l_65322.php



What is Student-Led Education?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

What is Student-Led Education?

Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

Teachers from the school site 37ECB stand in front of posters about facilitation tips that the students created together. Their semester culminated in a project in which the students were in charge of facilitating discussions.

In the 21st century, we have access to millions of pieces of information in less than a second. This shift in immediate availability of information changes not only how the workforce operates, but also how we prepare students to enter the workforce. One of the ways in which some districts and schools are addressing this is to place less emphasis on the traditional teacher-to-student lectures and instead focus more on building skill sets of students that allow them to succeed in the demands of a technologically-savvy workforce.

By changing the focus from the typical teacher-to-student led classrooms, and instead focusing on empowering students to discover their own hurdles, find their own answers, and teach others their findings, students are being taught important life-long skills. In a publication by eSchool News that focuses on how to make the shift to student-led learning, the top 10 skills that are needed in 2020 as identified by the World Economic Forum were listed, including complex problem solving, people management, negotiation, and critical thinking, among others. However, these skills cannot be taught from a teacher, they need to be observed, practiced, and given feedback. The ability to learn from peers and find resources is the key difference in student-led education versus traditional teaching formats.

What are the Benefits and Challenges of Student Led Education?

Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

Image of former ABG student, Daimeon, facilitating a book discussion with current ABG students at La Mesa Community School.

There are multiple reasons why more of an emphasis is being placed on student-led education. As discussed in an article on teachaway.com that outlines the benefits of student-led learning, when students take the lead in teaching, they focus on ideas that interest them more, which paves the way for a deeper understanding and more enjoyment and fulfillment from the topic. Students also tend to relate to their classmates more, meaning they may pay more attention and even understand them better than they might a teacher. In this teachaway article, a pilot study from a university was cited in which students were given autonomy on how to structure the classes themselves in an effort to increase class attendance and exam performance. Student involvement and class attendance increased, which in turn improved the grades of the students in the pilot study. Similar teaching styles are being implemented across the world and to students of all ages to empower them to take more control over the learning process.

In the workforce, teachers are not readily available to answer questions and lead employees to the right resources. It is up to employees to find resources themselves from peers or online. Allowing this skill to develop while also enabling students to discover what interests them is becoming more important, as more schools shift to this methodology of teaching.

The Words Alive Adolescent Book Group includes book discussions, activities, and projects that are often times led by the student participants. This allows them to get comfortable speaking in front of others and encourages more involvement amongst their peers. If you are interested in funding these student-focused literacy programs, visit our website here for more details on our upcoming Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Sources:

https://www.teachaway.com/blog/benefits-student-led-learning-international-schools

http://foggs.ca/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Making-the-shift-to-student-led-learning-white-paper.pdf

Sponsor Highlight: Moss Adams

Moss Adams.PNG

Words Alive's signature fundraising event is the Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser. Celebrating its 15th year, the Author's Luncheon has featured world renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende.

Taking place each fall, the Author's Luncheon is attended by over 600 patrons that include book lovers, philanthropists, educators, civic organizations, and people invested in creating a more literate and thriving San Diego. This intellectual, elegant, and fast-paced fundraising event helps Words Alive raise over $200,000 annually, funds that make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, the generous people, companies, and organizations who know how important literacy is for a successful and thriving community, and support our mission of opening opportunities of life success by inspiring a commitment to reading.

Moss Adams is one of the largest public accounting firms in the U.S., a spot they have earned through 105 years of offering accounting, consulting, and wealth management services. The company has earned several firmwide awards including three for being an exceptional workplace for women. Forbes also named them as one of the best midsize employers in 2017, as a company that makes their employees feel happy, inspired and well-compensated. Lastly, they have won six diversity awards in the last seven years.

Moss Adams also ensures they are making a difference in the world today. They do this by having commitment to their people, investing in their communities, and minimizing their environmental impact. The company and its employees volunteer in the community, serve on boards and make charitable donations to help build up the communities around them. Moss Adams has an extensive understanding of the issues foundations, their donors, and their for-profit entities often grapple with as well as the opportunities available to solve those issues. San Diego is just one of the several communities they have supported. Moss Adams will receive recognition on all wine bottles and champagne available in the Marketplace at the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.

As the Beverage Sponsor, Moss Adams is helping Words Alive provide high-quality literacy programs to thousands of students and families in San Diego during the next school year.

We have many sponsorship opportunities still available! If you, or the company you work for, believes in the importance of literacy and is interested in helping Words Alive foster a more literate community, check out sponsorship details here. We have benefits available from social media promotion, to recognition on centerpieces, to the opportunity to announce our featured author, Mary Kubica, at the event!

Fund a Mind, Transform a Life

By Jennifer Van Pelt & Sara Mortensen

The 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is coming up on October 19th and this year our signature fundraising event theme is: Fund a Mind, Transform a Life. This event is important to our organization in many ways, but the most important is this: the Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser provides a significant amount of our income and allows us to continue to deliver high-quality literacy programs all over San Diego. When you buy a ticket to the event, donate towards a silent auction item, or contribute in the ballroom on the day-of, you are helping us fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Every dollar you donate at the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser helps to fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Every dollar you donate at the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser helps to fund the minds and transform the lives of the students and families we serve.

Fund a Mind

Literacy is a foundational skill that is so easily taken for granted by many, yet nearly 450,000 San Diego County residents are considered illiterate. Literacy is a skill that is shown to not only have a relationship to someone’s socioeconomic status and earning capabilities, but can also transform one’s life by allowing them a well-rounded and fulfilling education that enables them to effectively communicate and participate in the communities around them.

According to the EARLY WARNING! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, up until the third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in the fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. This turning point at the end of the third grade is why growing amounts of resources are being directed towards children in Kindergarten through third grade.

An image of one of our Read Aloud Program volunteers reading to a classroom at Golden Hill School.

An image of one of our Read Aloud Program volunteers reading to a classroom at Golden Hill School.

In fact, research like this is the reason why we have strategically designed our Read Aloud Program to target this age range. Reading aloud to young children is the most important thing we can do to help them become motivated, strong readers and in the Words Alive Read Aloud Program trained volunteers read aloud each week to approximately 4,300 children from early childhood education and Title 1 - eligible elementary school sites across San Diego.

Additionally, research from Yale University has indicated that three-quarters of students who are “poor readers” in third grade will remain “poor readers” in high school. Not surprisingly, students with relatively low literacy achievement tend to have more behavioral and social problems in subsequent grades. By focusing on providing additional literacy resources during these key years, it is helping to ensure that these children have the tools to succeed in following years.

Transform a Life

Effective literacy education needs to reach more than just the students that are between Kindergarten and third grade, however. An article published on WCNC states that reading to your child, even in the womb, can activate brain development, increase vocabulary by 24 months, and decrease risk of speech delay. Though this is a known fact amongst experts and doctors, not all parents are aware of the importance this holds on their child’s future success. Educating families as a whole on when to read to their children and what techniques they can use is equally important. Literacy skills can start building from an early age and are building blocks for reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

An image of one of the kids in our Family Literacy Program standing in front of a huge cutout of the Hungry caterpillar!

An image of one of the kids in our Family Literacy Program standing in front of a huge cutout of the Hungry caterpillar!

Words Alive’s Family Literacy Program aims to empower parents as agents of change and advocates for their families by meeting parents where they are and giving them the "ah-ha!" moments that lead to deeper engagement with their children. Parents in the program attend seven workshops, receiving approximately ten hours of parent education covering early literacy development topics specific to preschool age children. Each workshop includes a tailored information session and skill-building exercises for parents, a group story time, and guided activities for parents and children.

As we know here at Words Alive, literacy goes beyond the simple act of reading words off a page and interpreting their meaning. Dr. Berninger, Professor Emerita of Educational Psychology at the University of Washington mentioned in a New York Times article, “Literacy involves all aspects of language, including our oral language, what we hear and say, and our written language, what we read and write.” She called it “language by ear, mouth, eye and hand.” As children grow and  develop, they cannot be denied the resources that allow them to learn these skills.

All of our programs at Words Alive aim to , ensure that children are able to build the skills that can transform their lives and help them become well-rounded individuals with the power to change their communities for the better.

Simply put: Words Alive uses all donations to fund the minds of children, which helps them transform their lives. Join us for our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser, where you can enjoy a wonderful afternoon while knowing that your actions are making a difference in the state of literacy education in your community.

Click here for more information, and to purchase tickets or a table for the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser.

Sources:

www.aecf.org

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/16/well/family/literacy-builds-life-skills-as-well-as-language-skills.html

https://hechingerreport.org/how-to-help-struggling-young-readers/

https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/why-you-should-read-read-read-to-young-children/275-573777471

 

Meet Our Author's Luncheon Moderator: Dr. Seth Lerer!

Seth Lerer.jpg

Our 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser is being held on October 19th and will feature best-selling author Mary Kubica. Once again, Dr. Seth Lerer will be joining to moderate the conversation with our featured author, and this year marks his fourth time joining us at our signature fundraising event! Since 2014, Dr. Lerer has moderated conversations with Anna Quindlen, Isabel Allende, and Salman Rushdie for the Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser.

Seth Lerer is a distinguished professor at UC San Diego, where he served as the Dean of Arts and Humanities. His studies and teachings focus on Medieval and Renaissance Literature, History of the English Language, Children’s Literature, as well as Shakespeare. He has several published works that focus on these areas, as well as multiple literature and teaching awards. He is a Guggenheim fellow, a prestigious award for those who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship and ability in the arts.

One of Dr. Lerer’s many pronounced works is titled Children's Literature: A Reader's History from Aesop to Harry Potter. His book outlines the history of Western Children’s Literature, looking at stories from Mother Goose fables to J.R.R. Tolkien. As a professor who has extensively studied, published, and edited literature-based works, we are excited to welcome him back to our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Now, let's hear directly from him:

What first compelled you to work with Words Alive? Why do you continue to work with Words Alive on the Author’s Luncheon?

Words Alive shares many of my own professional and community goals: a commitment to developing literacy and a love for reading; a recognition that the human imagination matters; and a philanthropic mission to bring the magic of books to young people who may not have those books. Words Alive is one of those organizations that, I believe, is preparing young people to become my future college students. The Author’s Luncheon provides a wonderful opportunity for me, personally, to meet and talk with leading writers and to find ways of getting them to share their craft and their own devotion to the written word. The audience for the Luncheon is always receptive, and I hope that when the authors leave, they can recognize what a great reading community we have in San Diego and, thus, spread the word.

What is your favorite Author’s Luncheon memory?

There are so many: joking with Salman Rushdie about the satiric quality of our current lives; sharing the sensitivity of Anna Quindlen on life choices; and flirting with Isabelle Allende while discussing her stories of love and friendship.

What do you most look forward to at the Author’s Luncheon?

I most look forward to finding a point of contact with an author: finding out not simply what we have in common, but how a creative writer and a scholarly writer (me) can learn from each other about the meaning of books and the imagination. And, of course, doing all of this with some five hundred of San Diego’s most committed readers makes it fun.

What are you most excited to talk to Mary Kubica about after reading her latest book, When the Lights Go Out?

I have just started the book. But clearly, it is a work of suspense and narrative propulsion. I think it will live up to its arresting opening. I’ll look forward to talking with Mary Kubica about holding an audience, building reader interest, and shaping plot.

Why is reading and literacy important to you?

Through reading, I discovered myself. We all read not only books but the world: experience is made up of signs and symbols, stories and tales. We can aspire to be the heroes of our own novels. When I teach literature, I try to show how fiction is not a lie: it is the artful re-imagination of experience. It is a lesson in living and a goad to our creative understanding of the world.    

Secure your seat at the 15th Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser today! www.wordsalive.org/authorsluncheon

Sponsor Highlight: Geppetto's

Image of the Geppetto's logo! The logo features a toy Pinocchio holding a sign that says "Geppetto's" with the tagline "a child's fantasy".

Image of the Geppetto's logo! The logo features a toy Pinocchio holding a sign that says "Geppetto's" with the tagline "a child's fantasy".

Words Alive's signature fundraising event is the Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser. Celebrating its 15th year, the Author's Luncheon has featured world renowned authors such as Salman Rushdie, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende.

Taking place each fall, the Author's Luncheon is attended by over 600 patrons that include book lovers, philanthropists, educators, civic organizations, and people invested in creating a more literate and thriving San Diego. This intellectual, elegant, and fast-paced fundraising event helps Words Alive raise over $200,000 annually, funds that make up a considerable portion of what Words Alive needs to continue serving thousands of children and families each year.

This event would not be possible without the support of our sponsors, the generous people, companies, and organizations who know how important literacy is for a successful and thriving community, and support our mission of opening opportunities of life success by inspiring a commitment to reading.

Gepetto’s, a San Diego staple, is a local toy store and a returning Promoting Sponsor for the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

An image of the various, overflowing toys available at Geppetto's!

An image of the various, overflowing toys available at Geppetto's!

Dubbed as a San Diego tradition, Geppetto's has been operating for over 40 years and is proud to be locally owned by the Miller Family. This magical world of toys started with an original location in Old Town, but has since grown into 10 storefronts, spanning from Carlsbad to Coronado. Products in stores range from the latest and greatest to classic toys, guaranteed to spark nostalgia within all adults. Their mission is for customers to enjoy their award-winning stores where they will find toys to inspire creative play for the whole family. Additionally, Geppetto's specializes in exceptional service for shoppers, offering complimentary gift wrapping daily and Toy Experts, happy helpers stationed in stores to recommend engaging age appropriate toys for children.

Thank you Geppetto's for supporting Words Alive with the 15th Annual Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser! Promoting sponsors for this event not only receive recognition on press releases and printed collateral, but they help Words Alive continue to serve thousands of students and families in San Diego with high-quality literacy programs.

We still have many sponsorship opportunities available! If you, or the company you work for, believes in the importance of literacy and is interested in helping Words Alive foster a more literate community, check out sponsorship details here. We have benefits available from social media promotion, to recognition on centerpieces, to the opportunity to announce our featured author, Mary Kubica, at the event!