N–2 teachers and students use reading to give back to the Woodlawn community
Lab students, parents, and educators at ESH have joined together in an ongoing effort to support Hello Baby, a Woodlawn-based community center. Hello Baby provides a variety of services for parents of children ages 0–5, including health services, music classes, and literacy development programs. It’s this last endeavor that has been the focus of a drive by the Lab community to provide resources for these essential reading programs.
According to the Literacy Project, access to print material is a crucial part of reading acquisition, and the amount of books in a child’s home is a strong predictor of their scores on literacy tests. Hello Baby addresses these problems by holding weekly read alouds and activities, where participants are given copies of the featured book to take home and start building their own family libraries. Ted Ratliff, first grade teacher and N–2 faculty chair, helped launch this program and has recruited Lab teachers to participate as readers in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Ratliff looked for new ways to help the cause of early literacy without being able to be physically in the Hello Baby space.
The result was the Read for Books program, which encouraged Lab students to raise funds for Hello Baby while strengthening their own literacy skills. Students took pledges, getting family and community members to donate money for each book they read during the month-long program. The money collected was then used to buy more books for the Hello Baby reading programs.
Throughout the program, it was important to Ratliff that the organizers were “really mindful” of their choices of books to donate, making sure to focus on books featuring children of color and positive examples of social emotional learning. In the future, Ratliff hopes to extend the project to more classrooms, all in an effort to “connect classes to tangible opportunities to serve the community.” For N–2 teachers and students, it’s never too early to start thinking about how students can be a force for good in the world beyond the classroom.