Read to Succeed

What is the Difference Between Equality & Equity?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. ( Source )

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. (Source)

The terms “equity” and “equality” are frequently thought to be interchangeable. However, in the world of education (and beyond) there is a large distinction between the two that can be differentiated in the same way as “fairness” and “sameness.” King University describes the difference as, “Equality denotes how people are treated, such as providing students an equal amount of respect or an equal amount of instruction. But equity, on the other hand, is about giving each students the tools [they] specifically need to thrive.” Equality assumes that every child needs the same amount of attention and tools in school in order to succeed. Equity accounts for the fact that children have different home lives, backgrounds, learning styles, or learning disabilities, among other factors.

The Glossary of Education Reform outlines several ways in which inequity can enter the public school system and classrooms:

  • Societal Inequity: Minority students (based on race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, or ability) may experience conscious or unconscious discrimination that can affect their learning, achievement, or aspirations.

  • Socioeconomic Inequity: Students from lower-income households can under-perform in the classroom and tend to enroll in higher education at lower rates than their more affluent peers.

  • Familial Inequity: Students may come from a tumultuous household with abuse, poverty, or lack of support. Parents who are unable to read themselves or were unable obtain a diploma may place a different emphasis on academics than parents who obtained a college degree.

  • Linguistic Inequity: Students who are learning the English language may be disadvantaged in classrooms that provide English-only exams and can be held to lower academic expectations.

These background variables place students at different advantages in school, starting from the time they enter Kindergarten. The support an English-language learner needs in a classroom differs from the attention a student who comes from an low-literate household needs. By focusing on these needs from the beginning, we can prevent achievement gaps that will only widen over time.

There are various ways to help bring fairness to the classroom and provide the tools that each student needs individually to succeed. An article written by Shane Safir, the founding co-principal of June Jordan School for Equity, explains some of these methods. Her first example details an English-language learner who struggled with paragraphs and punctuation and how she found the time for one-on-one teaching during a class quiz. By placing more emphasis on the student’s learning gap instead of a quiz that the entire class was taking, the teacher saw the importance in bringing the ELL student up to speed with the rest of the class. Some of her other methods include knowing the students lives outside of school, what they enjoy doing, and more about their family, so the teacher can build trust and begin to understand what additional support, if any, the child may need. Safir also believes in creating a safe space where failure is celebrated and students can share their struggles with their peers in order to learn from each other.

There have been several federal initiatives related to providing equity to students through how funding is allocated to schools as well as supporting organizations who can help bridge the equity gap directly. Promise Neighborhoods, Investing in Innovation, and IDEA are all recent federal initiatives that focus on supporting nonprofits and institutions of higher education that provide these students the tools they need to thrive.

Words Alive works to achieve equity in education, by providing additional support to students who may be working through extraordinary circumstances in the public school system. If you would like to learn more or get involved with our Words Alive programs, click here for more information.

Sources:

https://online.king.edu/news/equality-vs-equity/

https://www.edglossary.org/equity/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/equity-vs-equality-shane-safir

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/



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!

Sponsor Highlight: Voice of San Diego

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. 

Voice of San Diego (VOSD) is is an award-winning nonprofit news organization based in San Diego, California, and the Media Sponsor for the 15th Annual Author's Luncheon & Fundraiser! Laura Kohn, Words Alive Board Member and co-host of VOSD's Good Schools For All podcast, had this to say about both organizations:

"Words Alive and Voice of San Diego are both about helping San Diegans engage with the community through words and knowledge. The children and youth who benefit from Words Alive’s programs will hopefully grow up to be civically active community members who vote and participate in our democracy. And our local democracy will be healthier for them thanks to VOSD’s intrepid reporting."

Hear more from Voice of San Diego:

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Want to know what’s really happening in San Diego?

Concerned about how local agencies operate and make decisions about education, the environment, housing, or public safety?

VOSD's Morning Report logo, sign up here!

VOSD's Morning Report logo, sign up here!

Then check out Voice of San Diego’s Morning Report to learn more. As a Words Alive supporter and someone who cares about San Diego, we think you’ll enjoy reading it. 

Voice of San Diego is an award-winning nonprofit news organization that digs deeply into local issues and organizations that affect the public. Our mission is to deliver ground-breaking investigative journalism for the San Diego region and to increase civic participation by giving residents the knowledge and in-depth analysis necessary to become advocates for good government and social progress.

VOSD’s stories spurr officials to act, catalyze change, and enhance the lives of our fellow residents. Below are a few examples of how VOSD made a difference in our community in 2017.

PUBLIC HEALTH: VOSD Coverage Spurs City and County to Act on Hepatitis A

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Within a day of Lisa Halverstadt’s story describing county and city officials’ foot-dragging on a response to the Hepatitis A crisis, both entities announced they would take swift action. The story prompted public responses from elected officials and attention from national media outlets.

GOVERNMENT: SANDAG

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SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos stepped down following a nearly yearlong investigation by Andy Keatts, that culminated in a brutal report from an outside law firm.

Legislation to overhaul the San Diego Association of Governments, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month. The bill was spurred by our reporting on SANDAG’s faulty revenue forecasts.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION

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A San Diego Superior Court judge sided with Voice of San Diego and found that San Diego Unified improperly withheld documents related to our investigation of former trustee Marne Foster. The case sets an important check on public agencies who try to keep public records from the public under the guise of exemptions to the California Public Records Act.

RECENT AWARDS

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association gave two awards to Ashly McGlone and Andy Keatts to honor their coverage of the Field Turf contracting issues and the SANDAG scandal, respectively.

San Diego Society of Professional Journalists recently announced Andy Keatts as 2018 Journalist of the Year for his investigation into SANDAG.

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!

Is Literacy a Constitutional Right?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A Words Alive graphic that says, "Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive. We read to live full, independent lives. We read to...." The following list includes statements such as "apply for jobs that pay a living wage", "advocate for our families", and "vote or write to our elected officials."

A lawsuit filed in 2016 to establish literacy as a U.S. Constitutional right was struck down by a federal judge last month. The suit argued that Detroit students are excluded from the state’s education system, thus violating their rights under the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. These clauses say that no state can deny any person life, liberty, or property without due process of the law and also prevents states from denying equal protection of the laws to any person.

An article from the Detroit News details the fact that though the Constitution does not explicitly guarantee the right to education, the Supreme Court has not confirmed nor denied it either. The judge also wrote that the case needed further supports to prove their case, which leaves room for this case to come back and be tried later to help support students from Detroit and across the nation.

Why Is This Case So Important?

In 2017, the US Department of Education found that 65% of fourth-grade children nationwide were not proficient in reading. When so many children have fallen behind before they are halfway through their schooling, it is difficult for them to successfully continue and complete their education. When looking at the high school completion rates, the National Center for Education Statistics states that for the 2015-2016 school year, 1 out of 6 students failed to graduate with a high school diploma within 4 years of starting 9th grade.

Without a high school diploma, finding a job that pays a living wage is increasingly difficult. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2017 data, a full-time worker without a high school diploma earns a median weekly wage of $515, while a worker with a high school diploma earns $718. When these individuals are successful in high school and have the skill set to pursue higher education, they earn a median salary over double that of someone who didn’t complete high school: $1,189 weekly wages for those with a bachelor’s degree. This demonstrates how the literacy skills that are taught in early years of school can lay the entire foundation for the future of a child’s life. Currently, about 20% of adults in the United States are not earning a salary considered to be “a living wage.” Furthermore, applying for jobs and filling out employment forms also require reading and writing skills, making it difficult for these individuals to improve their situation.

A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

A picture of a child in our Read Aloud Program holding the book "Are You My Mother?" while smiling.

By failing to provide the proper education for these children, the government may experience higher costs in healthcare as well. Literate adults have the knowledge and skills to seek out more preventative forms of healthcare including contraception use. According to debt.org, it is estimated that $18 billion could be saved annually if patients who have non-urgent/avoidable medical concerns were to take advantage of preventative health care instead of relying on emergency rooms for their medical needs. Emergency rooms are required by federal law to provide care for all patients, despite if they have insurance or are unable to pay, meaning that it is a popular choice for those who are disadvantaged.

There are countless more studies that show that illiteracy is connected to other undesirable life outcomes, including incarceration and reliance on public assistance programs. To illustrate, 3 out of 5 people in American prisons can’t read, and once they do leave the prison system, there aren’t any programs that allow them the opportunity to learn how to read in order to properly apply for a job. According to an article on The Observer, arming inmates with a solid education is one of the surest ways of reducing the rate at which they end up back behind bars after being released. The prison system is beginning to make moves to address these issues, but the real change needs to happen before these individuals are incarcerated by providing them with the education and tools to develop a healthy, independent lifestyle.

At Words Alive, we’ve created a “Why Literacy Matters” graphic (included above), illustrating how literacy is present in daily life and how necessary literacy is for living a full and independent life. Declaring literacy as a constitutional right would make these day to day tasks possible for everyone, allowing them to create a life for themselves that they are able to choose. Providing high-quality literacy education and opportunities at the beginning of these children’s lives is the start to building a generation that is able to accomplish their goals and achieve heights their parents were not able to. Because literacy tends to be “passed down”, meaning that it is difficult for an illiterate guardian to help a child read or do homework, it is important that the children today have the proper education and the right to break this cycle of illiteracy.

If you are interested in helping the literacy cause closer to home in San Diego, visit our volunteering page here.

Sources:

https://amp.detroitnews.com/amp/747738002

https://www.debt.org/medical/emergency-room-urgent-care-costs/

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp

http://observer.com/2017/07/prison-illiteracy-criminal-justice-reform/

80% of Students Develop a Positive Attitude Toward Books: The Impact of Adolescent Book Group

By Jennifer Van Pelt

Words Alive’s Adolescent Book Group has wrapped up for the school year, so we would like to take a deeper look at what the program entailed, our successes, and what the participating students had to say about it!

An image of one of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship students facilitating a book discussion at La Mesa Community School.

An image of one of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship students facilitating a book discussion at La Mesa Community School.

What is the Adolescent Book Group?

In 2018, our Adolescent Book Group (ABG) worked in 19 different classrooms that are within the Juvenile Court and Community School System. Across all classes, our participants read 41 books over the course of the school year.

Our ABG Program works to achieve three main goals: help students develop an enduring commitment to reading, become life-long learners, and become an advocate for themselves and their futures. In order to develop a commitment to reading, students are exposed to books with inspiring and life-changing themes that they are able to analyze and discuss further with their peers, teachers, and Words Alive volunteers. In 2018, 80.24% of students agreed that ABG has helped them develop a positive attitude toward books while 85.19% of students agreed that ABG has helped their ability to express themselves in group discussions. Luis, a 17 year old high school student said, “I thought this program was very helpful to me and made me want to read more. I really never liked reading until I got out to a program like this.” Developing a positive attitude towards reading opens up countless opportunities to continue learning by either teaching yourself or motivating yourself to pursue higher education.

Our participants are able to move towards the goal of becoming life-long learners because they are given the opportunity to learn and recognize their own ability to seek out information to solve problems, acquire critical thinking skills, and use the needed skills to successfully transition into a post-secondary education or a career after school. 8/8 teachers surveyed said ABG helped their students achieve the common core standards of determining and analyzing themes, analyzing the development of complex characters, propelling conversations by posing and responding to questions. In an environment that is very heavily influenced by a student’s performance in Common Core standards, this is an area important to address. A classroom teacher from one of our schools said, “The volunteers were well prepared and extremely helpful in moving the conversation forward, talking about their experiences and how they felt as they read the book. The behavior they modeled helped the students to discuss the topic from the perspective of their own experience.” Having additional positive role models in the classroom are also helpful for these teens as they near a turning point in their lives.

Our last main goal, to help students become advocates for themselves and their futures, is obtained by not only increasing the participant’s self-confidence in the classroom but also learning their voice as a reader, writer, and a speaker as they work towards personal, educational, and career goals. 80.25% of students agreed that ABG has helped their ability to express themselves through writing and 83.75% of students agreed that ABG has helped their ability to make connections between what they read, their life, and their world. Jamie, a 15 year old who participated in our ABG program said, “I liked the creative writing because I had more stories than what I thought I had and I got a chance to show them to people.” Taylor, an 18 year old High School student said, “I liked the discussions because I was able to speak what was on my mind and put ideas in other students’ minds.” Having the confidence to share your ideas through written and spoken methods are important in becoming empowered to achieve your goals.

An image of one of our students from 37ECB working on a black out poem. The image features a page of a book and the student's hand.

An image of one of our students from 37ECB working on a black out poem. The image features a page of a book and the student's hand.

Across all 11 schools we work with, we have achieved top results. As we look for further ways to improve our program, we will continue to follow up with our student participants, teachers, and volunteers for productive feedback. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer yourself or would like to find out more information about attending our Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser to support programs such as our Adolescent Book Group, head to our main page here!

The Benefits of Discussing Books in Small Groups

By Jennifer Van Pelt

A picture of Read Aloud volunteer, Barb Takahashi, talking with Golden Hill students in her small group session.

A picture of Read Aloud volunteer, Barb Takahashi, talking with Golden Hill students in her small group session.

Words Alive runs multiple literacy programs that focus on teaching strong literacy skills and a commitment to reading to children, teens, and families. One of our most popular programs is the Read Aloud Program, which currently serves over 4,300 Southern California students that are between Preschool and 3rd grade.

We offer this program in a “small group format” to a few of our school sites, in which our trained volunteers visit the classroom for 90 minutes each week to read to the group as a whole, then split the class into groups of 3-5 students to discuss the book and do small group activities. A study from aecf.org showed that students who are unable to read proficiently by the time they leave 3rd grade are four times more likely to not receive a high school diploma. Because of their young age and the relationship between literacy and success in education, we want to provide the most benefit we can in the 90 minutes a week that our volunteers visit the classrooms by fully engaging the students. We vet and train our volunteers to ensure they understand the discussion material and have the appropriate props, stories, and photos to help bring the books to life for the students.

These volunteers are able to bring more materials to the classroom so the group discussions are able to make the connection between the book and their everyday lives. Another benefit of the program, as noticed by our volunteers, is that all children are given the opportunity to participate. In a group of 30 or more students, children don’t always have the support to get individualized attention and encouragement to speak up like they do in smaller groups. They are also given the opportunity to use the new vocabulary and read aloud, so they can have another method of internalizing the new information.

In order to measure the effectiveness of the program, Words Alive partnered with the University of San Diego’s Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research and surveyed the teachers and volunteers involved in this small group format of the Read Aloud Program. When asking them about the effectiveness of the small groups, 9 out of 10 teachers agreed that it encouraged more individual participation, helped students understand the story, and resulted in deeper discussions. Teachers also positively rated their student's reading motivation as a 4.1 on a 5 point scale after they participated in our Read Aloud Program formatted with small groups. Reading motivation is a key literacy indicator because it shows the self-confidence and desire to continue reading, which leads to more learning and practice.

In these underserved schools particularly, there is often times no guarantee that students are provided with the necessary resources and support staff to receive the individualized attention that our Read Aloud Program provides. That is why teachers and volunteers believe in the work that we do and recommend the program to other schools.

If you would like to become a volunteer in our Read Aloud Program, or any other positions at Words Alive, visit our website here to learn more.

Celebrating Our Graduating Scholars: Domminiece Willis!

"Words Alive has been such a huge stepping stone into both my transition into college and adulthood. I have picked up on so many educational, social and life skills throughout my time with Words Alive." -- Domminiece Willis, Words Alive Westreich Scholar

An image of Domminiece at her graduation. She's holding her Southwestern College degree up to the camera and smiling, and she's wearing a Words Alive Westreich Scholar stole!

An image of Domminiece at her graduation. She's holding her Southwestern College degree up to the camera and smiling, and she's wearing a Words Alive Westreich Scholar stole!

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

In the past month, we have seen three of our scholarship students, Domminiece Willis, Zaphire Alonso Duarte, and Lexi Martinez, graduate from community college with associate's degrees. All three students graduated on May 25, 2018, Domminiece from Southwestern College and Zaphire and Lexi from City College.

Words Alive is thrilled to have been a part of the journey towards success for all of these wonderful students. We are so proud of all of them; they embody what it means to persevere and thrive.

We interviewed Domminiece Willis to learn more about her college experience and her experience with the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program.

Read on:

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, and Domminice Willis at the graduation!

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, and Domminice Willis at the graduation!

Name: Domminiece Willis

Age: 26

College: Southwestern College

Degree (with area of study): Associates in Art: Child Development

Mentor: Karen Ladner


1. When were you first introduced to Words Alive? How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

I was first introduced to Words Alive through the monthly book groups held at Monarch School in 2010. Words Alive has been such a huge stepping stone into both my transition into college and adulthood. I have picked up on so many educational, social and life skills throughout my time with Words Alive.

2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in earning your degree?
The biggest challenge that I faced in earning my degree was struggling with self-doubt, overwhelming course loads and comparing my progress with others. I found myself constantly belittling myself or disregarding any minor achievements or progress that I had made because in my point of view I was ”behind” everyone else and that began to take a toll heavily on my grades and my motivation to finish college.

3. How did you overcome that challenge?
With the help of my family, mentor, and another Words Alive staff member, I dropped my course load in half. I took a break from the scholarship and I focused more on celebrating my achievements, big or small, and understanding that my educational journey is not like everyone else’s and that I will move at my own pace and in my own way, but I will make it to the finish line. Regardless.

4. What is your favorite book that you read during your college years? Why?
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I remember reading this book and having to pause saying, “This is ME, this book is about me.” There were so many similarities between me and the characters of this book. The struggles of stability, financial issues, schooling and self-discovery throughout this book spoke to me and gave me such a positive outlook on life because it was so refreshing to see how everything worked out for her in the end.

5. What are your future plans now that you have earned your associate degree?
Now that I have my associate degree in Child Development it's off to San Diego State University in the fall to earn my bachelor’s in child development, so I can become a Child Life Specialist. Can't stop now! The future children depend on me!

6. What advice do you have for the next generation?

Keep going, stay positive and always surround yourself with a strong support system! It's going to be hard and you'll come across many obstacles in your life. You'll get a few bruises here and there and it's okay to sit and cry over them as long as you get up to grab a band-aid and push through.

Learn more about our Teen Services program here: http://www.wordsalive.org/teenservices/

Get Caught Reading!

A picture of our Program Director, Amanda Birmingham Bonds, getting caught reading with her daughter!

A picture of our Program Director, Amanda Birmingham Bonds, getting caught reading with her daughter!

May is National Get Caught Reading Month, a campaign that aims to encourage people of all ages to enjoy literature and share their love of it with others. The campaign gets the word out by showing photos of celebrities reading various books, including Queen Latifah, Michael Bloomberg, and Dora the Explorer, among several other familiar faces. These photos are printed into poster format and dispersed in schools and libraries to help children realize that books aren’t just schoolwork, but successful people from all ages and backgrounds read with a smile on their face. To help spread the message, teachers and librarians then take photos of students “getting caught” reading and make their own posters to encourage others!

Why is this Campaign Important?

In a world focused on the internet and social media, books seem to have taken a back seat in people’s everyday life, giving way to more instant forms of gratification. For young children and teens particularly, it is important that they learn to read and enjoy the experiences reading can bring. Reading for pleasure has many benefits including mental wellness and, according to an article from the New Zealand National Library, reading is also associated with higher academic motivation levels, more positive engagement in school and family relationships, and higher social/attitudinal competencies. Aside from those benefits, reading is a key skill one must have to pursue a higher education and to succeed at many 21st century careers.

In a study done for Scholastic Publishers, researchers found that less than 50% of children ages 9-17 read for enjoyment. At a time when a child can build a habit for a lifetime, this number is alarmingly low and seems to correlate with the low amount of adults that read for pleasure as well. In the same study, Scholastic found that a child between the ages of 6 and 11 is more likely to be a frequent reader if they are currently read to at home, they were read to 5-7 days a week before nursery age, and if they were less likely to use a computer as fun. The common theme to encouraging a healthy relationship with books is reading aloud with children and being a good role model for them by consistently bringing books into the home as a family activity.

Words Alive’s Take On The Celebration

A #shelfie from the lovely folks at the San Diego County Office of Education!

A #shelfie from the lovely folks at the San Diego County Office of Education!

Words Alive has gotten involved in celebrating people’s love of reading by bringing the idea to social media and asking others to post a #shelfie with their favorite book or in front of their book collections! We have also been inviting local council members, news anchors, and even local sports team representatives to make appearances in classrooms to read to elementary students to help encourage their love for reading. To get involved with our Share Your Love of Reading Campaign, follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @WordsAliveSD or visit our main page to learn more about other ways you can get involved!

Sources:

http://www.getcaughtreading.org/

http://everychildareader.net/

https://natlib.govt.nz/schools/reading-engagement/understanding-reading-engagement/reading-for-pleasure-a-door-to-success

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jan/09/decline-children-reading-pleasure-survey

Words Alive Awarded Community Partner of the Year by Neighborhood House Association

(Pictured left to right are: Dr. Alfonso Rodriguez - Director of Research and Training, NHA, Carter Anderson - WA Read Aloud Program Manager, Kimberly Maraya - WA Read Aloud volunteer at Miller Head Start, Sharon Gruby - WA Read Aloud volunteer at McGill School of Success and Read Aloud Program co-chair, Terri Hamlin -WA Read Aloud volunteer at McGill School of Success and Read Aloud Program co-chair, Amanda Bonds - WA Senior Program Manager)

 

Words Alive is honored to be recognized by the Neighborhood House Association as the 2016 Community Partner of the Year! For the past 5 years, Words Alive, our dedicated volunteers and the NHA have worked together to bring quality reading experiences, parent education and book ownership to Head Start families who need it most. We all agree that a strong literacy foundation is a key factor in scholastic success and we look forward to accomplishing more great thing together! 

 

At Words Alive, we believe that reading is a cornerstone skill and our mission is to open opportunities for success by cultivating a commitment to reading. Since 2011, we have partnered with the Neighborhood House Association and their collaboration sites within the San Diego Unified School District to bring the love of reading to preschool age children from underserved communities across San Diego. Through weekly read aloud sessions led by trained volunteers, parent workshops, lending libraries and book donations, we have worked alongside schools and families to build a culture of reading. The Neighborhood House has been an important partner in this endeavor and has worked with us to continually deepen our impact on literacy readiness among the families who need it most. Below is a snap shot of what we have accomplished together between 2011 and 2015 (the clock is still ticking on the current school year!):

 

·        Words Alive has donated 20,255 new and gently used books (given to children to build their home libraries and to site to create center-based libraries where families can borrow books from the same place they bring their children each day) .

·        Volunteers have dedicated 1,633 hours to reading aloud with children in the classroom, helping students cultivate a love of stories and wonder about their world.

·        Words Alive staff has led 255 hours of parent education workshops, helping parents to recognize and grow their power as their child’s first teacher.

 

These efforts have aligned nicely with the NHA’s three year goals to:

·        Engage the whole community in working together to ensure that children are ready for school (school readiness).

·        Develop programs, competencies and linkages that support and promote parent empowerment and self-sufficiency. (Parents – empowerment/Self-Sufficiency)

 

Other WA volunteers who read at our Head Start locations but were not able to attend NHA’s Volunteer event include; Sharon Gruby, Charlotte Germundson, Tora Grossman, Terri Hamlin, Christy Moore, Charline Meulemans, Kim Maraya, Cynthia Shenkman, Kathy Zybelman, Linda Sorrentino, Valentina Jones-Wagner