Read to Learn Summit Launches Multi-Year Literacy CampaignPublished Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Intent on building a Miami-Dade County coalition to improve literacy, especially by the third grade, The Children’s Trust launched its Read to Learn initiative with a summit in late September.
The Literacy Summit marked the official first step in a multi-year campaign that seeks, by 2020, to reduce by half the number of Miami-Dade County third-graders who fail to read at grade level. Currently one in three students cannot read at their grade level, and two-thirds of our students do not read proficiently at this critical academic juncture.
“Today is about taking a leap of faith that we can change these statistics,” Modesto E. Abety Gutierrez, president and CEO of The Trust, told the audience. “For too long we’ve worked in different silos. Today is about how we can pull together in the same direction and have collective impact on this issue.”
Collective impact, a national model for community change promoted by Stanford University, convenes important leaders from different sectors around a common agenda in order to solve a specific social problem, in Miami-Dade County’s case, poor reading skills, especially in children in certain pockets of the county.
Ralph Smith, the executive director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, served as the keynote speaker. Smith provided an overview and his concern for the growing importance of improved reading skills nationwide.
“I’ve been asking myself this question: How can we spend as much as we do, care as much as we do and accomplish so little in terms of education?” he said. To impel more progress, Smith challenged parents and advocates to adopt two fundamental propositions. First, to hold schools accountable for improved learning. “Secondly,” he said, “for the rest of us to commit to a broad new compact with education – we have to do what we can to make sure that quality teaching occurs in every possible educational setting.”
Lisa Martinez, senior advisor to Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office, presented a proclamation from the county and applauded the Read to Learn campaign’s emphasis on improving literacy and reading skills for Miami-Dade County students. “The truth is that reading is fundamental across the county,” said Martinez, formerly the executive director of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Human Resources.
“The wisest investment we can make as educators and as municipal leaders is in education in the the early years,” said Alberto Carvalho, superintendent for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. “We want to be the loudest possible voice in our community for little boys and girls. It’s about being on deck, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, so that Read to Learn will be a reality in our community – it’s the civil rights movement of our generation. We have an opportunity and this summit is a great start.”
Lucrece Louisdhon-Louinis, assistant director for the library system, highlighted the many activities, programs and benefits that libraries offer around the county and expressed her support for increased partnership on the literacy issue.
Jacqueline Clenance, chief program officer at Belafonte TACOLCY center and an educator by profession, was one of the 170 registrants at the summit.
“At TACOLCY we do a literacy program; Read to Learn is a broader initiative that’s trying to get the community to focus on literacy so we wanted to be there for this first step.”
For Clenance, the information shared was familiar. What was most important was the focus on rallying the community and on encouraging literacy in the early years.
“As a community we know the issues; they’ve been discussed enough across socio-economic and cultural lines. The importance of the parenting role to get kids ready for school is huge – most of us knew that. What the session did was give these issues public confirmation and acknowledgment,” Clenance said.
Clenance explained that her program charges fees as a means to enforce parental involvement. "In some ways we, as a society, have created a sense where people feel entitled, that if something is free it means you have no commitment. We share the cost of the program with our parents, and we now have parents who own the program and understand their role – so we know it can happen. I hope that Read to Learn will give us some ability to enforce this with parents at the community level.”
She noted that parents, oftentimes because they're young, simply don’t understand the critical role they play in educating their child. Whatever the motivation – carrot or stick – it’s important to reach them with the message that they matter. “Whether it’s an attractive motivation that gets them there [or something else], we need to find a way to have parents play more of a role in the education of their children.”Maggie Loret de Mola, in her second year as director of YMCA Homestead DLC, has 18 years experience in the childcare field.
“I’m always interested in anything to do with children’s learning, especially reading. It’s so basic for everybody from babies to grown-ups. I wanted to see what Read to Learn was all about.”
Through her experience, she was familiar with many of the issues and challenges raised in the “Child Readiness: Quality Child Care” breakout session. She was surprised and impressed though with the video and data that documented the importance of regular school attendance and how much learning is lost during the summer.
“It was very well presented and very visual – it was kind of a shock. I could really see the gap between the children who go to school regularly.
She’s looking forward to the next event related with the Read to Learn campaign. “Too often, we have that first meeting and everyone gets all geared up. We have to continue to work together and have the same goal to provide what’s best for the children.”
***View Resulting Recommendations from the four Breakout Sessions and Full Group Reporting, and learn more about Read to Learn/Leer para aprender/Li pou apran.
Written by Michael R. Malone