Reading

Life Lessons Learned From Popular Children's Books

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The Lorax is standing on a tree stump and text on the images says, “‘Mister!’ he said with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.’”

An image from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. The Lorax is standing on a tree stump and text on the images says, “‘Mister!’ he said with a sawdusty sneeze, ‘I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.’”

If you think back on some of your favorite books as a child, or the books you read to your own family members and loved ones, there’s likely some stories or motifs that stick out in your memory. Examples of popular themes in children’s books include not getting to bed on time and all of the chaos it can create, what eating too much food can cause, or why being nice to siblings can bring positive experiences. These subtle themes introduce new ideas to children as well as humanize lessons for them.

Some books take these lessons even further by relating them to some of the “Golden Rules” or basic social skills that children should learn when they are young. Aesop’s Fables is perhaps one of the most famous for popularizing these ideas for children, but it’s a common practice among popular contemporary children’s literature. Take a look at some of the examples below that you may have not realized subtly suggest a larger life lesson to children.

“The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister follows the story of a beautiful rainbow fish who keeps his beautiful scales to himself instead of sharing them with the other fish, leaving him with no friends. By the end of the book, the fish learns that giving the other fish some of his scales made him friends, thus embodying the “sharing is caring” motto we often teach children.

“Corduroy” by Don Freeman depicts the story of a teddy bear who goes on a hunt for his missing button that he believes he needs for any child to love him enough to buy him. After an adventure-filled and fruitless excursion for another button, a little girl buys him and loves him for his flaws. This book touches on the lesson that no one is perfect and everyone has flaws; it’s just about learning to love yourself as you are.

No children’s book list would be complete without a book from Dr. Seuss. “The Lorax”, perhaps one of his more popular and pertinent books, is a cautionary tale about treating the Earth with respect. It follows a child and his discovery to how his previously breathtaking town came to become such a desolate and destructed area. This book not only teaches children about the importance of sustainability and moderation, there’s also an overarching theme about the importance of learning from the past.

Words Alive knows that there are countless more benefits to reading aloud to children. In addition to introducing life lessons to them, reading aloud can also support their overall knowledge of books in general, cadence of reading a book, and vocabulary. If you would like to support our journey in ensuring more children are able to participate in the experience of reading aloud, you can visit our Read Aloud Program homepage here to learn more.



Annual Report: Family Literacy Program

What happened in our Family Literacy Program in the 2017-2018 school year? Well…a lot!

To start, 437 families came through the door, taking home 2,511 books and clocking 1,310 hours of shared learning time. Let’s dive in and share what else happened in the program this year!

Meet Sheena

An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

In our sixth year of the program, our expanded facilitator team included Sheena, a talented mother and preschool teacher who attended the program the past two years with her young boys. She is the first parent participant to go on to lead the program with other families. Sheena has been able to use her experience as a participant in the program to shape her leadership style. Over the past year, Sheena has inspired 72 families through the Family Literacy Program, while sharing her own stories and experiences to help strengthen their connection to reading. Through this unique perspective, Sheena has been able to see the incredible effects the program has on children and families.

“I had a parent say that they couldn’t get their son to read at all because he thought it was boring,” said Sheena. “But after the program, they’re saying that he wants to read more and more...he’s comfortable now — he’s not feeling forced to read!”

Reporting Out

An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

To engage returning families, Words Alive introduced new curriculum, including new book titles and supporting activities — and it was a huge hit! What’s more, parent knowledge in understanding child development, implementation of literacy-building activities at home, and book sharing behaviors continue to increase for our families during their time with us. With the increased knowledge and skills that come from our programs, parents are empowered in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. By the program’s end:

• 68% more families reported having a routine for looking at books with their child.

• Families reported an average 38% increase in the size of their home libraries, growing on average from 11 to 16 books.

• Families that completed our program reported a 40% increase in understanding how their preschool child learns and have created a language-rich environment for them.

Moving Forward

Parents play the most critical role in developing skills and abilities within their children. Parent engagement is one of the key factors in a quality childhood program. At Words Alive, we know that our Family Literacy Program is engaging parents in a meaningful way and making an impact on the families who participate each year. We have successfully collaborated with a variety of partners like the Fullerton School District, who offered four sessions of our program in their schools after we trained their staff and provided curriculum.

“Words Alive has empowered parents to support their children acquire valuable literacy skills, engage families in discussion about meaningful literature, and connect our parents into our school community.” —Dr. Robert Pletka, Fullerton School District Superintendent

We continue to see the same results in the families through this training model and through direct services. Going forward we want to continue to diversify where we can offer our Family Literacy Program by reaching out to families through classes located within their communities.

Learn more about our Family Literacy Program here!

Why Diversity in Books is So Important

By Jennifer Van Pelt

Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit:  Nicola Yoon

Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit: Nicola Yoon

In a recent blog post, we previewed a few books included in our curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year. Among the books included are short stories and novels that feature characters and are written by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, authors who deal with mental health issues, and have other diverse experiences.

ADL is a nonprofit whose mission is to secure justice and fair treatment to all, including those of varying religions, races, genders, and identities. ADL posted an article outlining anti-biased education and how diversity in books was related. The article explains the difference between “mirror books” and “window books” when referring to diversity in children’s literature. A “mirror book” contains a reflection of oneself: your culture, gender, race, religion, etc. and enables the reader to potentially see themselves in a different light. On the other hand, a “window book” gives the reader a glance into another life that features different people, events, and places that they may not be familiar with. Exposing students to different environments through these “window books” is a unique opportunity to learn empathy and perspective, while allowing children to reflect on their experiences through “mirror” books helps them relate in new ways and learn more about themselves in the process.

A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations.  Source

A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations. Source

What Portion of Books are Considered Diverse Today?

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center does a yearly study on how many books are published from non-white authors. Though there has been an increase in recent years for books published from multicultural authors, there are still just over 10% of books published in the last 24 years that were written by and about people of color. This is compared to the 2017 census data that reported 40% of Americans as people of color.

Examining the books in the Young Adult LGBTQ category, where the characters or plot line focuses on LGBTQ issues, the percentage has doubled in the last decade. Malindo Lo, an author who writes about such issues, conducted her own study in 2017. Malindo counted books published each year by mainstream authors, reaching nearly 80 books in 2018, up from 55 in 2015. Comparing this to the 4.5% reported American LGBT population in 2017, there is a large variance between the population and the representation within publications and what students are exposed to. This under-representation is what a lot of advocacy groups and movements aim to address today.

Is Diversity in Books an Important Topic Today?

Yes! We Need Diverse Books aims to “produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” An 11 year old African-American girl, Marley Dias, launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in contemporary books.

Words Alive understands the importance of diversity as well and works hard to bring “window books” and “mirror books” into the classrooms to teach students self-reflection and empathy. Most of our participants are non-white students, a group that is severely underrepresented in American publications. By exposing students to different cultures and reliving how main characters have endured experiences that the reader may have gone through personally, we are able to bring more representation, tolerance, and understanding into the classroom.

Sources:

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/why-we-need-diverse-books

http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045217

https://www.malindalo.com/blog/2017/10/12/lgbtq-ya-by-the-numbers-2015-16

https://news.gallup.com/poll/234863/estimate-lgbt-population-rises.aspx

https://diversebooks.org/about-wndb/





Learn a New Word Today!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image of one of our Adolescent Book Group students working on a blackout poetry exercise, which requires them to select certain words and phrases from a page of text to construct a poem.

An image of one of our Adolescent Book Group students working on a blackout poetry exercise, which requires them to select certain words and phrases from a page of text to construct a poem.

October 16th is National Dictionary Day, which celebrates the English language on the day that Noah Webster was born. Webster is known for his publication An American Dictionary of the English Language, which included 70,000 words and involved learning 27 languages in order to determine the etymology of the words. This publication from Noah Webster is a predecessor to the now widely recognized Merriam-Webster dictionary that has helped millions of people understand new words.

Learning new vocabulary is an integral part of a child’s development and continues to be important into our adult lives. In an article on TalkingKids.org, it’s estimated that 3 year old children typically have between 500-1,100 words in their vocabulary. These are words  that they can both verbalize and understand. A few years later, between the ages of 5-7, children typically have the knowledge to use between 3,000 to 5,000 words in their conversations. At this point in their life, their brains are “sponges”, absorbing their surrounding environment at a rapid rate.

An article on Scholastic.com outlines three reasons why vocabulary is such a large focus for children. First and foremost, vocabulary itself makes up communication -- how we speak, read, listen, and write. Secondly, the goal of reading is to understand and grow from the material. Understanding and overall comprehension of the text improves when we know the vocabulary included in it. Lastly, when children and adolescents improve their vocabulary, their academic and social confidence and competence improves as well, allowing them to succeed in diverse environments.

Reading is one of the best ways to gain exposure to words that may not be in used often everyday conversation but have significant meaning and can be added to your “word bank” for future use. On the U.S Department of Education website, a presentation about vocabulary development outlines the correlation between time spent reading and the number of words we are exposed to each year. With less than one minute of reading each day, we are exposed to 8,000 words per year. With 4.6 minutes of reading each day, we are exposed to 282,000 words per year. And with 20 minutes of reading each day (the recommended amount for beginning readers), we are exposed to 1,800,000 words per year! Learning and comprehending new words by using context clues or looking them up in the dictionary is an important step in becoming a more advanced reader.

An image of four dice spelling out the word “risk.” The word “hazard” originated from an Arabic word for a dice game that involved high risk!

An image of four dice spelling out the word “risk.” The word “hazard” originated from an Arabic word for a dice game that involved high risk!

National Dictionary Day also celebrates the etymology of words: where they originated from and how they came to be a part of the English language. Oxford Royale Academy lists some common words with some very interesting backgrounds. Take “hazard” for example: a word dating back to 13th-century Arabic of which “al-zahr” referred to dice used in gambling games, which had a high amount of risk involved for participants. “Al-zahr” subsequently became associated with danger and was believed to be brought to Britain when the Crusaders learned these dice games while in the Holy Land.

Looking for a fun way to celebrate this day? Try looking up etymologies of new words you learn -- or everyday ones such as sandwich or genuine! To celebrate dictionary day year round, there are multiple “word-a-day” apps and emails you can receive, including Merriam-Webster and Oxford English.

Sources:

https://nationaldaycalendar.com/national-dictionary-day-october-16/

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/understanding-vocabulary/

http://www.talkingkids.org/2011/07/how-many-words-should-my-child-be.html

https://www2.ed.gov/programs/readingfirst/2008conferences/language.pdf

https://www.oxford-royale.co.uk/articles/14-fascinating-word-origins-english-language.html

Words Alive Curriculum Sneak Peek!

By Jennifer Van Pelt

Words Alive’s Adolescent Book Group and Read Aloud Program have started back up for the school year! We are excited for our volunteers to get back into the classroom and engage with students while reading and talking about books together. In our curriculum for both programs, we focus on new, diverse, and relevant texts so that students can see themselves represented in popular stories.

In 1965, The Saturday Review published “The All-White World of Children’s Books” showing that only 6.7% of children’s books published in the past three years had included black characters. By 2013, the numbers had only risen slightly to 10%. More than a third of people in the United States are non-white and they deserve to see themselves represented in literature as much as anyone else. Providing students with diverse representation in books is so important in our programs and allows students to make connections between the books they read and their own lives.

Here is a sneak peek of a few of the books we’ll be reading in each program this year!

Upcoming Curriculum for our Read Aloud Program

Although children’s books are generally shorter, we want to ensure that students get the most value out of each book we bring into the classroom. Rather than reading through each book and moving quickly on to the next, our volunteers bring the book to life by asking questions before, during, and after reading aloud to encourage the students to participate. The goal is to bring enjoyment to the classroom through reading while helping children develop cognitive, language, and social-emotional skills.

For the month of October, we have a Halloween themed book titled Trick-or-Treat: A Happy Hunter’s Halloween. The book includes 15 different poems describing youngster’s Halloween celebrations, accompanied by bright illustrations. While reading, our volunteers help students focus on rhyming, rhythm, and emotion. Students are also given the chance to learn about and create their own silly alliterations and share their own Halloween costumes with their peers.

An image of Giraffes Can’t Dance surrounded by children’s toys! Photo credit:  phenom_llama

An image of Giraffes Can’t Dance surrounded by children’s toys! Photo credit: phenom_llama

Another book our volunteers are looking forward to reading is Giraffes Can’t Dance. This book follows Gerald the Giraffe’s journey from a self-conscious to graceful dancer, including all of the animals and friends he meets along the way. As with most books at this level, our volunteers talk a lot about the book before reading it -- what do the students think the story will be about? Where do they think the book is set? After reading the book, some topics of discussion will be idioms included in the story as well as what lessons were learned.

Who Says Women Can’t be Doctors? describes Elizabeth Blackwell’s decision in the 1830s to become a doctor instead of a mother or housewife. A big focus of this book is relating it to the students own lives: what do the students want to be when they grow up? Does it remind them of any other people they know who have worked to achieve equal rights? Relating a book to our reality helps bring the book to life and can make it a more memorable activity for students.

Upcoming Curriculum for our Adolescent Book Group Program

Our ABG program serves teenagers in alternative schools who have faced extraordinary circumstances such as violence, pregnancy, and homelessness. Our trained Words Alive volunteers facilitate book discussions, writing workshops, and projects to help bring the books alive.

An image of  Turtles All the Way Down  surrounded by flowers! Photo credit:  courtneyandherbooks

An image of Turtles All the Way Down surrounded by flowers! Photo credit: courtneyandherbooks

Among the new and diverse texts we’re bring into the classroom this year is Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Positive and accurate mental health representation is still so rare in our media and this book can be highly impactful for students with any type of mental health problems. This book explores topics of friendship, mental health, and mystery as 16-year-old Aza investigates the disappearance of a billionaire The discussions around this book include some of the unique writing techniques John Green employs, as well as how mental health plays a part in the story and in real life.

An image of  Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe ! Photo credit:  sarachico

An image of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe! Photo credit: sarachico

We’re also excited to introduce students to the wonderful YA coming-of-age novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. This book follows two high school aged boys, Aristotle and Dante, as they struggle and come to terms with their racial and sexual identities and feelings of loneliness and anger. This book tackles a wide range of topics for students and volunteers to discuss together, and while reading students will be able to enjoy Saenz’s poetic and beautiful writing style.

Finally, a brand-new book we’ll be diving into this year is Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro. This book details Moss Jefferies’ life after his father was murdered by an Oakland police officer and how he continues to be treated like a criminal in his own school. This book touches on themes of racism, oppression, police brutality, and activism. Discussions around this book focus on problem solving, activism, and how different upbringings can affect perspective.

This sneak peek represents just a few of the books we’ll be reading and discussing with students this year. These engaging, diverse texts and topics are sure to get all of our students excited about reading and learning!

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/



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