Welcome new program aims to deliver reading readiness
By The Post-Standard Editorial Board
May 21, 2010, 5:02AM
Times were tough growing up in the Smoky Mountains, writes Dolly Parton. "One of my most precious memories is sitting in my mother's lap and listening to her read me stories," she writes. "It felt so warm and cozy. My imagination soared to places far beyond our little cabin."
Now the singer-songwriter, actress and philanthropist wants to pass on that feeling to Syracuse's neediest children through her Imagination Library.
In a new venture sponsored by the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County, the Dolly Parton Imagination Library aims to mail one children's book a month to every household with a child under 5 in two of Syracuse's most distressed ZIP codes. Already "The Little Engine that Could" is going out to 127 children who signed up during Saturday's kick-off event at White Branch Library.
Some 2,668 youngsters live in ZIP codes 13203 and 13208 on Syracuse's North Side, part of the state-designated North Literacy Zone. At least half of them reach school age not ready to read, despite efforts to remedy the problem over the years.
What's different about this new approach? For starters, it is concentrated and collaborative. Rather than taking on the whole city, the project focuses on the neediest areas - with plans to expand from the north to the West Side Literacy Zone. These two zones are among 18 in the state selected for a special focus on meeting community literacy needs. The Imagination Library's goal is to sign up 500 children a year over the next four years.
Syracuse has been a beacon for literacy education. Home to two national organizations, Literacy Volunteers and Laubach Literacy, which combined in 2002 as ProLiteracy, the city now has a literacy leadership council that includes United Way, the Community Foundation, Le Moyne College and St. Joseph's Hospital. The coalition's 200 community members reach deeply into the neighborhoods served. There are plans for library literacy events and monthly family nights featuring "celebrity readers." Child-care workers will hone their literacy skills.
Social service and refugee resettlement workers, hospital staff at St. Joe's and other providers will sign up more children. A dynamic database will keep parents involved and informed.
Another new element is to measure outcomes, from the number of children in daily reading sessions to library book circulation figures. Syracuse University Community Benchmarks Director Carol Dwyer and her team have established baselines to track the effectiveness of the coalition's efforts to achieve "100 percent literacy through 100 percent community engagement."
Coalition Director Virginia Carmody says the goal is to "work diffusely and measurably" as a shiny new book is added to each child's Imagination Library every month. With the city school district's Say Yes to Education program focused on achieving success for every school-age child, this new drive for pre-school literacy education could fill an urgent need for reading-readiness preparation.
To sign up or find out more about the Imagination Library project, go to www.onliteracy.org or call 428-8129. Learn more
All Aboard the Imagination Library Express - We're On Track Towards Success!
For all their help with our launch event on May 15th at White Branch Library, A HUGE THANKS to Joel Delmonico and his staff at Clear Channels, especially Barb Miller & Bill Drace; John Eberle & Frank Ridzi (Community Foundation); Frank Lazarski (United Way); Mark Cass (ProLiteracy); Kathy Byrnes (LCOC Program Director) and her husband, Mike; Carol Williams (LCOC Consultant); Connie Gregory (LCOC volunteer); Joanne Trask (White Branch Library); Kathy Osmond (Central Library); Val Dorfer and her LZ staffers: Patricia King; Shawn Kairis; Lindsey Shirtz; Jocelyn Bowen; Jennifer Gillette & her husband, Pat; Shannon Feeney (United Way's Success By 6); Peggy Liuzzi (Child Care Solutions); Patty Schmidt (LeMoyne College & Cathedral At Pompei); Amy Thorna (Central Library); Nick Bennett & Sue Butler (WCNY) with Clifford the Bid Red Dog; Geoff Navias (Open Hand Theater), Mitch Carmody, and Syracuse Chief's mascots: Scooch & Pops, the railroad engineer!
Our event would not be possible without our Project Sponsors: United Way's Success By Six; the Central New York Community Foundation; Clear Channel Radio; Le Moyne College and St. Joe's Hospital; and our Project Partners: Child Care Solutions; Children's Consortium; Cowley Associates; Learning Disabilities Assoc.; Onondaga County; Onondaga County Public Library; Salvation Army; Syracuse City School District-Syracuse Literacy Zones; and Syracuse University. All refreshments were donated by Wegmans. Thank you all!
For those that were not able to attend our launch event, registration brochures are now available at the White Branch Library, United Way and the North Literacy Zone's Family Welcome Center at Grant Middle School.
Please visit www.onliteracy.org for more information on Imagination Library, to register a child online, and to make a donation (only $30.00 per year to sponsor a child or $150.00 to sponsor a child for their entire 5 years in the program).
What a great beginning but we're just getting started. Help us spread the word!