On Thursday, 9:30 a.m., March 27, 2014, at the Boston Children’s Museum, Strategies for Children is hosting the third event in its “Leading the Conversation” series on improving children’s literacy skills. It’s a panel discussion on “Designing and Implementing Effective Volunteer Efforts Focused on Literacy.”
Although Massachusetts is a national leader in education, 43% of our third grade students score below proficient in reading. Even more alarming, the commonwealth has a wide achievement gap, and third grade scores have been stagnant for 13 years.
Communities are addressing this crisis in a variety of ways, including engaging volunteers to support children’s early literacy and language development. In fact, in the U.S., volunteers gave 7.9 billion hours of service in 2012, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. Despite this significant effort, too many of our services are not substantial enough or coordinated enough to result in reading improvements. If recruited, utilized, and managed effectively, however, volunteers can have a real impact on children’s literacy outcomes.
About the Volunteer Event
In a moderated discussion, panelists will highlight and showcase the volunteer research and current best practices for maximizing volunteers’ impact on children’s literacy outcomes from birth to age eight. The panelists will push the conversation by outlining key program design characteristics, strategic considerations, and systems-building components to ensure a more sustained, intensive volunteer effort.
Featured panelists include:
- Patrick Corvington, Senior Fellow at The Campaign for Grade Level Reading and the former CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service
- Mary Gunn, Executive Director of Generations Incorporated
- Joan Kelley, Harvard Graduate School of Education Research Associate at the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group
- Shannon Langone, Program Director of Springfield College AmeriCorps, Massachusetts Reading Corps; and
- Elizabeth Miller, Master Literacy Coach of Massachusetts Reading Corps
Two related “Lead for Literacy” memos from the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education set the stage for this upcoming panel discussion. These memos share common pitfalls, useful strategies, additional resources, and self-study questions that volunteer programs and their partners can ask about themselves.
One memo, “Designing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy,” poses the questions:
- “Are volunteers’ roles explicitly linked in some way to children’s literacy learning?” And,
- “Are volunteers freeing up the time of highly skilled staff members, allowing learners to receive targeted support?”
The companion memo, “Implementing a Volunteer Program Focused on Literacy,” suggests thinking differently about volunteer recruitment; providing all volunteers with on-going support such as meetings and regular check-ins; and using multiple indicators to judge the effectiveness of volunteers’ efforts.
About the “Leading the Conversation” Series
Each event in “Leading the Conversation” covers a recommendation made in “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Success,” a 2010 report we commissioned that was written by Nonie Lesaux, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
The report’s five recommendations are:
1. Program Design and Impact: Reallocate funds and alter policy to ensure programs are effectively delivered with sufficient intensity.
2. Assessments of Children and Settings: Conduct early and ongoing assessment of children’s language and reading and of the quality of services and supports.
3. Professional Education: Increase adults’ capacity to assess and support children’s language and reading development.
4. Curriculum: Bring language-rich, rigorous and engaging reading curricula into early education and care settings, as well as PK-3 classrooms. And,
5. Partnerships with Families: Expand and strengthen work with families across learning settings and within communities.
Our two previous “Leading the Conversation” events covered the impact of family engagement on literacy and how to design and implement professional development programs that support the language and literacy development of children from birth to age nine.
We look forward to seeing you at the March 27th event. The cost of this event is $25. If you would like more information, please contact Kelly Kulsrud at firstname.lastname@example.org.