In the basement of the Chelsea Public Library, Lauren Butler and Morgan Kapinos start their day sorting through hundreds of gently used children’s books donated by The Reading Tree. These books will eventually be distributed to young children and their families through Raising A Reader MA preschool graduation ceremonies, parent workshops, and citywide literacy events. Lauren and Morgan make up Raising A Reader MA’s program team for Greater Boston 1 (which includes Chelsea, Revere and East Boston); their “home office,” generously donated by the Chelsea Public Library, offers them a warm work environment surrounded by books. Lauren and Morgan’s typical work days are anything but routine, as they are responsible for supporting the efforts of 20 implementation partners across the Greater Boston 1 community, who together offer Raising A Reader MA’s evidence-based early literacy program as part of their core services to nearly 1,100 young children and families every year.
After a brief period of sorting, Lauren and Morgan head out to visit Central Avenue Children’s Center. Like all of Raising A Reader MA’s implementation partners, the Central Avenue Children’s Center is visited at least two times a year. The goal of these visits is to be sure the Center has all the resources, support, and information they need to implement the program as part of their core literacy instruction with integrity. Each site visit is different and tailored to the needs of the partner program.
At the Central Avenue Children’s Center, the children are excited to learn Morgan will be leading a story time. As they gather on the reading rug, Lauren and the classroom teachers start to take an inventory of the Raising A Reader MA materials in the classroom. This annual inventory will determine how many sturdy red book bags and specially bound books will need to be replaced to run the program in the next school year. As Lauren and the teachers assess the condition of books and bags, Morgan uses Dialogic Reading strategies in her story time. She asks the children good questions about counting as she moves through The Giraffe Numbers Book by Gene Yates. Morgan engages the children in acting out the story – tangling themselves up in twine, like giraffe number 9, and writing with pens, like giraffe number 10. As they head out of the Center, Regina, the front desk administrator, affirms both women will be back later in the week to read in other classrooms, and hands Lauren their completed Director Survey. These surveys are collected from each of the 90+ Raising A Reader MA partners across the Commonwealth, and the information is used to help the home office staff learn how they can improve their services at the community level.
The next stop for Lauren and Morgan is the Early Learning Center in Chelsea. After being cheerfully greeted by the staff at the public pre-kindergarten, Morgan heads into the main office to remind the vice-principal to have teachers distribute bi-lingual parent surveys. These surveys are collected twice annually and help Raising A Reader MA assess if the program is having the desired effects of (a) increasing the number of times per week families read with their young children, and (b) engaging parents in using Dialogic Reading or read aloud strategies when they read at home.
After taking care of business, Lauren and Morgan head to the Parent Room at the Early Learning Center where they are setting up a Parent Ambassador meeting. Parent Ambassadors are primarily mothers who have experienced the transformative power of Raising A Reader MA first hand through their children’s participation in the red bag book rotation program and their own participation in the five-part Dialogic Reading workshop series. Empowered by their experience, Parent Ambassadors are trained to serve as advocates, outreach workers, and peer mentors in their community. Says Maria Rosario, one of the Parent Ambassadors in Chelsea, “Raising A Reader MA helped me learn new ways of sharing books with my children. I want to help other parents and children have the same experiences I now have with my kids.” Raising A Reader MA’s Parent Ambassador program offers important leadership and vocational opportunities for parents living in vulnerable communities, and harnesses the power of peer-to-peer networking to encourage families of young children to attend trainings and read with their children at home.
Following the Parent Ambassador meeting, Lauren and Morgan head back to the Chelsea Public Library. As they continue their book sorting, they chat with the Children’s Librarian about the May 23rd fundraiser at the Dockside Restaurant. The Dockside is donating 25% of the each ticketed patron’s check, from 6:00-9:00 PM, to Raising A Reader MA’s partners in Chelsea, Revere and East Boston. These funds will be used to continue to sustain the program as a core part of these communities’ early literacy improvements. Hop online to pull down a copy of the ticket that must be presented to have your dinner support Raising A Reader MA’s partners in Greater Boston 1.
Lauren and Morgan wrap up their day pleased with what they have accomplished, and energized about what will unfold the next day.
Reflect and take action
- How did Lauren and Morgan’s day meet your expectations of what Raising A Reader MA staff “typically” do? What was similar, what was different?
- Head to the Dockside restaurant in Chelsea for dinner on May 23rd. If you cannot make it, give them a call and thank them for hosting the fundraiser and for supporting our partners in their use of Raising A Reader MA.
Special thanks to the Chelsea Record for giving permission to post the Cary Shuman’s picture of Raising A Reader MA’s Parent Ambassadors in Chelsea.