Friday, June 17, 2016

Athena Program Reaches Teen Moms

Summer truly feels like it's begun at Reader to Reader when we have our annual Athena Interactive Literacy Program, which connects teen mothers from Holyoke's Care Center with community partners to foster empowerment in different areas of their lives. During the year moms work towards their GED at the Care Center, an alternative education program which seeks to "help them grasp how powerful they are, give them the tools to learn and provide them with an exciting and engaging learning environment." These sentiments echo Reader to Reader's own attitudes in our global literacy efforts, and now in its seventh year, Athena is a weeklong program that builds skills to help these young families thrive and learn.

Nutritional literacy is a major component of Athena. Local chef Bill Collins kicks off mornings with breakfast and wraps up afternoons with lunch. Each meal is accompanied with discussions centered around grocery shopping on a budget, balancing the demands of preparing a meal with young children around, simple and quick but nutritious meals, and various cooking tips, tricks, and stories. The moms even get to try their hand at food prep and cooking throughout the week!

Between meals, a range of activities give the moms a chance to express their voices. One of our college interns led a spoken word poetry workshop and later in the week, we took a trip to Northfire Recording Studio for a recording session. This year's selection of poetry include themes of family, love, and motherhood. 

The week's other project, board book making, was filled with laughter, casual discussions, crafting fun, and sweetest of all, sharing baby and toddler photos.

In addition to exploring their creativity, the moms explored financial literacy with Florence Bank and children's book and writing for different audiences with Phantom Tollbooth author Norton Juster. 

It was a week of learning for all involved: the moms themselves, Reader to Reader staff and interns, and the community partners who so generously shared their time and knowledge with us. Fittingly, we closed the week out with a celebration at the Care Center which allowed other Center students and staff a glimpse of what we were up to all week. 

We are so grateful to have been able to spend Athena week with participating moms and we will continue to cheer them on in their aspirations!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Reader to Reader's Dennis Quinn Named 2016 Mass Literacy Champion

Dennis Quinn of the Amherst-based literacy organization Reader to Reader has been named a Mass Literacy Champion by Mass Literacy.

Mass Literacy, a non-profit organization supporting literacy education in Massachusetts, recently announced the six winners of the 2016 Mass Literacy Champions Awards. 

The program publicly recognizes and rewards Massachusetts' educators who have shown exceptional commitment and results through their work in literacy education.

Award winners will receive a $1000 grant for program development and a professionally produced video to promote the work of their organization valued at $1000.

Mass Literacy selected six Mass Literacy Champions, including Springfield resident Dennis Quinn. Dennis is the Director of Mentoring Programs and supervises the Read, Think, Share program for Reader to Reader, which is based in Amherst on the campus of Amherst College.

Read, Think, Share is a web-based initiative that partners students from low-income backgrounds with college student mentors, to improve reading and writing skills and foster a love of reading.

Dennis has grown the program from serving 22 students to over 1,300 in West Springfield, Holyoke, Chicopee and surrounding towns.

For his Mass Literacy Grant project, Quinn will bring the Read, Think, Share program to a brand new school, serving 30 more students. The grant covers all books, supplies and training for the program.

The Mass Literacy Champions Awards program enables literacy providers to share their most promising practices with their peers and serve as ambassadors for literacy. 

Each 2016 Mass Literacy Champion will complete an innovative literacy project that will be shared with the statewide literacy community.  Seventy-six Mass Literacy Champions have been recognized since 2003, and together they represent the diverse literacy community that makes Massachusetts a national leader in education.