People of Literacy Mid-South: Seeding Success

People of Literacy Mid-South is a column that takes a close look at the folks that make our organization tick. But today, we’re not looking at a person. Instead, we’re discussing an organization whose support and guidance is valuable to Literacy Mid-South.

seeding success

Seeding Success is not an organization that directly serves individuals. Instead, Seeding Success focuses on helping organizations be more effective in serving their communities. Seeding Success works to create collaborative partnerships, called Collaborative Action Networks (CANs for short) that focus on a particular service area. In their own words:

The Seeding Success Partnership collaborates to ensure every child graduates high school prepared for college, career and success in life.

Seeding Success pulls together K-12 institutions, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and countless other types of organizations to work pursuing equitable educational outcomes for children. The organizations that Seeding Success organizes into CANs agree to focus on a set of goals that are developed beneath the umbrella of Seeding Success’ larger organizational goals:

  • GOAL 1: Every child is prepared for success in school;
  • GOAL 2: Every student is successful in school and graduates prepared for college, career, and success in life;
  • GOAL 3: Every youth who is not in school reconnects to education, training, or employment opportunities;
  • GOAL 4: Every young adult has access to a post-secondary opportunity or career.

These goals are put into practice by arranging the CANs to focus on one of eight academic outcomes. The outcomes that Seeding Success and their organizational CANs are attempting to influence are: Kindergarten Readiness, Third Grade Reading Proficiency, Middle School Math Proficiency, College and Career Readiness, High School Graduation rates, Access to Post Secondary opportunities and attainment of success at those Post Secondary opportunities, and a focus on providing educational and career opportunities to Opportunity Youth. Each CAN works together to provide research informed strategies to impact these areas and ensure that children and young adults will lead successful lives.

education studyingLiteracy Mid-South has a presence in two of those CANs. We are the convener of the Third Grade Reading Proficiency CAN, and we provide space and support to organizations who collaborate to improve the rates of reading proficiency at grade 3 for every Shelby County child. The CAN focuses on three areas that impact reading proficiency for grade 3 students: attendance, literacy, and psychological barriers. The CAN has made vision screenings available for hundreds of grade 3 students through a partnership with the Southern College of Optometry, as well as provided books and literacy instruction to thousands of students through Literacy Mid-South’s Summer Reading Program.

Literacy Mid-South’s Adult Learning Program is involved in the Opportunity Youth CAN, a CAN dedicated to connecting roughly 40,000 local young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not connected to education or employment programs with gainful employment and education opportunities. The Workforce Investment Network is the convener of this CAN, and it includes partnerships with the Memphis Goodwill Excel Center, ResCare, and the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The CAN has gathered focus group data from former Opportunity Youth and is now developing a report based on the findings.

Seeding Success connects organizations that work in similar impact areas with each other and allows them to exponentially increase their reach and effectiveness. Without Seeding Success’ unique approach to collaboration, many organizations who are working to make Memphis a better place would be shouldering their burdens alone.

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission.

 

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AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associates Are Working to Create a More Literate Mid-South

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In our post “Summer Reading With Literacy Mid-South,” we discussed a phenomenon called Summer Slide. Here’s its basic premise: students who don’t engage in educational opportunities during summer vacation risk losing some of the academic gains that they made during the school year. An active summer with reading and literacy focused activities can assist students in retaining key reading abilities, and in some cases, can even help to address the achievement gap. For the past year, Literacy Mid-South has been building and implementing a summer reading program in collaboration with several community partners from all over Memphis. The summer reading program is currently serving thousands of children, providing them with books and reading instruction throughout their summer vacation.

IMG_0028In order to reach over 3000 students and serve 30 organizations, AmeriCorps VISTA provided Literacy Mid-South with 20 Summer Associates who are committed to the cause.  The VISTA members were trained, and provided with the skills they needed to help attack this issue. These AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates are Mid-Southerners dedicated not only to improving summer reading, but also to impressing upon the community the importance of literacy. Each Summer Associate works at a different community partner’s site, and performs reading pre- and post-assessments, serves as a point of contact between the community partner and Literacy Mid-South, and helps to deepen the community partner’s understanding of the importance of ongoing literacy skills training.

Esther Kang, an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate serving at W. H. Brewster Elementary School, thinks that this program is very necessary. During her time there, Esther has gotten to know Memphis a little bit better, and also has gained a deeper understanding of the need for reading intervention. She’s found the work at her site “refreshing, frustrating, and challenging,” but says that it’s a great program. Esther’s most impactful moment was working with a student who read at a significantly lower level than he needed to for school.

“He was just so grateful for the attention and positive reinforcement,” Esther said. “And it’s helped his self-esteem and changed his perspective of reading and learning.”

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Rodney Frison is a Human Services Major at the University of Memphis, and serves at the YMCA Davis site housed at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church. Rodney does not have a background in education, and this was actually his first time working with children in this type of program.

“Now, I can definitely see the need for literacy services,” Rodney said. His time as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate has taught him more about the power of networking and taking a collaborative approach to solving community issues. And for Rodney, the most powerful collaboration that he’s seen is with parents. “We’re establishing reading as an at-home thing too.”

Alexandria Wallace, a Music Education major at the Universty of Memphis and Summer Associate at Knowledge Quest, was initially nervous about starting work in an area of the city so different from where she’d grown up. She was suprised at how engaged the entire community, particularly the parents and children, was in her work.

Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with the Literacy Mid-South summer reading program has affected Alexandria’s career goals. She’s thinking about the impact that education can have on children, and is perhaps considering a change of major.

“Now that I see how much these kids need a fantastic education, I want to help.”

Literacy Mid-South provides literacy resources to Mid-South learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our vision is 100% literacy in the Mid-South. Visit our website to learn more about our programs and mission. 

 

Summer Reading With Literacy Mid-South

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In a few short weeks, students will leave their classrooms and schools and begin enjoying their summer vacations. During this time, many students will be enrolled in summer camps, community programs, or on vacation with their families. Others will struggle to access meaningful summer opportunities, educational or otherwise. Summer vacation plans notwithstanding, it is important for students (and, some would argue, the entire community–including adults) to read during summer vacation. Students who don’t engage in educational opportunities risk losing some of the academic gains that they made during the school year. This phenomenon is called “Summer Slide” or “summer learning loss.”

Summer learning loss has an adverse effect  on student performance at the beginning of the following school year. In addition to this negative outcome, it can also widen the academic performance gap between low performing students and their peers. This chasm in performance between groups students from different backgrounds is known as the achievement gap. In fact, some research suggests that summer learning loss, especially in the case of students from low income households, can make students already affected by the achievement gap less likely to finish high school or enter college.  

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Students in the Mid-South are not immune to the Summer Slide, and Literacy Mid-South is attempting to mitigate its effects. We’ve developed a summer reading program in collaboration with a network of partners to measure the effectiveness of summer learning loss prevention efforts and hopefully curb the learning loss associated with summer vacation. Our partners include organizations that are already doing meaningful work in the community: Memphis Athletic Ministries, Streets Ministries, and Agape Child and Family Services, among others. We hope not only to mitigate summer reading loss, but also build a community of students and organizations dedicated to summer reading.

This summer we will be rolling out the Literacy Mid-South Summer Reading pilot program that will attack summer reading loss by providing students with rich, complex, and culturally competent books to work with over the summer vacation. Throughout the summer, we will focus on increasing oral language and vocabulary. Our hope is to serve 2000 students through the pilot program, and have around 3,800 students enrolled in the summer reading community. Additionally, every student that participates will receive three books free of charge.

The mission of Literacy Mid-South is to provide literacy resources to learners of all ages and backgrounds. Our summer reading program will work to make good on that mission by providing thousands of underserved children with the literacy support that they need to stay abreast of their peers when school resumes in August. The work that we’re doing now will lead to a stronger Mid-South in the long run.

Want to help us achieve our goal of a 100% literate Mid-South? Consider donating to Literacy Mid-South, or spread the word. And follow our blog for more updates.

The fifth annual Literatini, our book and martini focused event that is “straight up fun for a good cause”, is June 10th at 6pm! Click here to buy tickets.

The Relationship Between Incarceration and Low Literacy

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Politicians and journalists often claim prison planners use third grade reading scores to predict the number of future prison beds needed. While it has been found this claim is mostly urban myth, there is in fact a strong connection between early low literacy skills and our country’s exploding incarceration rates. Compelling statistics underscore this connection:

Early Signs in Adults                                                                                            

Pro Literacy

A low level of literacy is not a direct determinant for a person’s probability to be convicted on criminal charges, but correctional and judicial professionals have long recognized a connection between poor literacy, dropout rates, and crime. The educational level of the prison population differs significantly from that of the household population being over-represented with individuals having below average levels of education. According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th grade level, “meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower (paying) jobs.” Data supports that those without sufficient income earned by work are the most prone to crime. Paul Romero, a correction official once noted, “With legal means of succeeding in society narrowed, illiteracy is heavily implicated in the crimes landing many behind bars in the first place.”

The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” When inmates who left school before receiving a high school diploma where asked the main reason they dropped out of school, about one-third reported they lost interest or experienced academic difficulty.

Early Signs in Children

KidsAccording to a special report, Early Warning, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “…the process of dropping out begins long before high school. It stems from loss of interest in middle school, often triggered by retention in grade…and that, in a great many cases, is the result of not being able to read proficiently as early as fourth grade.”

Reading on grade-level by the end of third grade is one of the most critical milestones in education. Studies show that 74% of 3rd graders who read poorly still struggle in ninth grade, and third grade reading scores can predict a student’s likelihood to graduate high school. Donald Hernandez reported in Double Jeopardy, children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers. While those with the lowest reading scores account for only a third of students, this group accounts for more than 63% of all children who do not graduate from high school.

Factors That Contribute to Third Grade Reading Proficiency

The connection of causes of many societal ills, including poverty, violence, crime, and incarceration in most instances correlate to high school completion rates and literacy skills education for primary grade students. There is an urgent national call for collaborative efforts to ensure children are prepared for college and career through achieving grade-level reading by the end of third grade. Warning Confirmed outlined the following factors effect third-grade reading success:

  • Readiness for school in terms of the child’s health, language development, social-emotional skills and participation in high-quality early care and learning programs.
  • Chronic absence from school must be mitigated.
  • Summer learning loss must be prevented.
  • Family-oriented stressors such as family mobility, hunger, housing insecurity and toxic stress should be addressed.
  • Quality of teaching the child experiences in home, community and school settings.

Education in Tennessee Prisons

  • Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) school system provides offenders with comprehensive academic programs, vocational programs, and library services to prepare offenders for the socioeconomic and occupational environment they will encounter upon their return to the community.
  • The adult basic education and high school equivalency (HSE) programs improve competency in basic learning skills, occupational aptitudes, and general reading/literacy levels.
  • In 2013, 618 HSE Certificates and 3,672 Vocational Certificates were earned in Tennessee prisons.
  • College programs leading to an associate’s degree are also offered
  • Vocational training is offered in: Automotive, Mechanical Technology, Barbering, Carpentry, Cosmetology, Construction, Culinary Arts, and HVAC & Refrigeration

 Education for Adults in the Community

Most low literate adults need to be connected to literacy education programs that assist them with developing the literacy skill necessary to obtain and keep gainful employment, as well as maintain positive lifestyles.

  • In community-based literacy programs there are more than 240,000 learners and 94,000 tutors nationwide
  • These programs provide instruction in basic literacy, GED prep, English, citizenship, job readiness, financial literacy, digital literacy, health literacy, drivers license prep, and other areas of study that interest learners.

Literacy Mid-South’s programs work to improve literacy outcomes for Mid-Southerners of all ages and backgrounds. Our work in the Third Grade Reading Collaborative Action Network directly addresses the need for early elementary literacy proficiency. Our Read Memphis Project has replicated our Adult Learning Program within the Shelby County Department of Corrections, in order to assist as many low literate incarcerated individuals as possible. Learn more about our Third Grade Reading Collaborative Action Network by clicking here. And if you’re interested in our Read Memphis Project, learn more about that by clicking here.