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AT&T grant helps Read Ready Covington create StoryWalks, prepare Hispanic parents for GED

At eight areas around the city this summer, Read Ready Covington spread the magic of children’s stories through an innovative pop-up project called StoryWalk that – from its roots in Vermont 14 years ago – has expanded to 50 states and 13 countries.

Meanwhile, over at the Esperanza Latino Center, the City-sponsored early literacy program is partnering with the non-profit resource agency to help Spanish-speaking parents study for the GED by addressing a major need – the lack of prep materials in their native language.

Each initiative has unique goals, is designed for distinct populations, and serves different age groups and each was made possible by a grant from communications giant AT&T.

AT&T donated $8,000 in June to The Fund for Covington in support of Read Ready Covington, whose work aligns with AT&T’s commitment to advance education, strengthen communities, and improve lives, said Holland Spade, who works in external affairs for the company.

Students at Ninth District Elementary in Latonia take in the StoryWalk under the supervision of a teacher. (Photo from City of Covington)

“AT&T believes we can all play a part in helping our neighbors and our communities come through these challenging times, and the summer learning programs provided by The Fund for Covington are the type of efforts needed to help our young people succeed,” Spade explained.

For Read Ready Covington’s director, MaryKay Connolly, seeing the programs come to life this summer with AT&T’s help became exponentially more exciting when she paused to think about the long-term impact of those programs.

“It’s stunning what one gift can accomplish,” she said.

Learning through stories

Read Ready Covington applied a portion of the grant to its StoryWalk project. The project is an educational activity that physically deconstructs and laminates a children’s book and places its pages in popular locations throughout a community.

The project promotes outdoor physical activity, builds interest in reading, and sparks the imagination through story-related activities. It was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., back in 2007.

Over the summer, Read Ready Covington placed StoryWalk® “books” at eight locations, and, with help from Covington Parks & Recreation, rotated the installations every three to four weeks.

“AT&T funded the ability to expand StoryWalk® through many neighborhoods that we connected to playful learning experiences for children and their families,” Connolly said.

For example, at Randolph and Goebel swimming pools and the Latonia Water Park/Splash Pad, children discovered stories like “Jabari Jumps” by Gaia Cornwall, a story about a young boy who works up the courage to jump off the diving board.

At Ninth District Elementary in Latonia, students enjoyed Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s “Green is a Chili Pepper, A Book of Colors,” which celebrates Latino culture while connecting to the school’s garden.

And at the Notre Dame Urban Education Center, kids read Lois Ehlert’s “Eating the Alphabet” while simultaneously sowing and maintaining a “STEM garden” (so-called because of its connection to science, technology, engineering, and math lessons).

At the center – an after school tutoring program for kids K-12 on East Eighth Street – the StoryWalk® led to related learning: The grant made it possible to create actual gardens, planting pollinators like black-eyed Susans and milkweed and vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes. Students learned about plant life cycles and the integral role that pollinators such as bees and butterflies play in the food chain and in eco-diversity.

Multi-generational approach

The partnership between Read Ready Covington and Esperanza will ultimately benefit entire families.

Twenty-one percent of Covington public schoolchildren identify as Hispanic. Parents generally want to be involved in their child’s education, but sometimes their own educational background limits the extent to which they can help.

When those parents or guardians work to address those limitations by getting a GED, they often run into a problem. The GED is available in the Spanish language, but prep materials and instruction in Spanish are much more difficult if not impossible to obtain.

The AT&T grant will help fund the development of a GED-prep curriculum, buy teaching materials, and supply testing fees for up to 15 students. The plan also includes recruiting a bilingual person to teach the GED course in Spanish.

As parents prepare for their GED, their children can use existing tablets and early literacy apps available through Read Ready Covington. The apps, Footsteps2Brilliance and Clever Kids University, have proved successful in preparing children with foundational reading, math, and science skills. Families can register for the apps at www.myf2b.comHERE.

“Clearly, the impact of the AT&T grant will impact multiple programs and foster a culture of learning within many families,” Connolly said.

City of Covington

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