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Community Spotlight: Joni Block

Let us call your attention to one of our INCREDIBLE partners, Brockton Coordinated Family & Community Engagement (CFCE) Coordinator Joni Block, who will be retired this year at the end of June.

We spoke with Joni about her work and connection with RAR-MA:

RAR-MA: First off, thank you for taking a moment!  Can you tell us a little bit about your background – why is literacy / reading important to your life? 

Joni Block: As a child, I knew I wanted to be an educator. When I was young, I was put into a “low” reading group because I wore glasses, according to my first grade teacher. Actually, my vision was perfect, but I had a weak eye muscle which the lens helped correct. I was, in fact, a very good reader. That was the beginning of my desire to teach ALL children. Books provided me with enjoyment and information. We had many books in my house growing up so I saw reading as a part of daily activities. I suppose part of my desire to teach had to do with sharing my love of books.

RAR-MA: How did you come to be a part of the RARMA community?

JB: As a CFCE Coordinator I had the pleasure of working with Maria Mombeleur in her role in the Brockton community. Her expertise and clear passion got me hooked on RARMA. My role was working with families and providing support for them to “be their child’s first teacher.”  RARMA was a perfect tool for that The resources, materials, and support Maria provided enhanced the CFCE project and the greater community significantly. 

RAR-MA: What is your favorite part about working with RAR-MA?  Can you tell us about a few of your favorite moments/experiences?

JB: (Joni broke down a few of her favorite aspects of working in the RAR-MA community)

Exploring new opportunities

Integrating RARMA into playgroups and workshops provided a meaningful and developmentally appropriate means of supporting literacy.

Community collaborations

Using literacy as a vehicle to collaborate was so useful Connections to the public library, family support programs, and organizations working with families with young children were enhanced thru some of the resources of RARMA.

Being able to explore and find families in the community and bring the program to them. 

My favorite vignette using these RARMA tools was when a dad told me he had such trouble reading to his triplets; he tried to read an entire book to each one individually every night. He and each kiddo, ended up frustrated because “he couldn’t get through a book.” When he became familiar with RAR techniques, his experiences shifted dramatically. Reading “with” rather than “to” enabled him to build on his connection and share his love of literacy with each child.

RAR-MA: How do you see the impact of your work and the work of RARMA? Especially with your deeper, higher lens / intel as a Board Member with EEC. 

JB: Early literacy has been a key goal in the CFCE work. RARMA and other programs have positively impacted families’ understanding and use of early literacy. We have data that shows that when RARMA is used in the home, families read more books and children are more engaged. RARMA has impacted how I integrate early literacy in my community as well as how I share that info with colleagues across the state.

RAR-MA: How has your thinking changed over the course of your work?  What have you learned, and might like to pass along to others? 

JB: What began as a way of teaching reading to others has evolved to a means of sharing the love of books and early literacy. I have experienced the impact of providing tools to students and to families. A message from me would be to provide opportunities for literacy – in any form – to be part of one’s daily life and environment.

RAR-MA: Let’s wrap up with some fun – what is your favorite book?

JB: I am currently reading Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby. As an early childhood specialist, I marvel at all that children can teach us. 

RAR-MA: We most certainly agree.  So, what’s next? A lavish vacation? Trips around the world? 

JB: Hah! I wish. I am planning some vacations and am looking forward to continued work in the field on special projects.

RAR-MA:  Thank you again, Joni, the people of Brockton are lucky to have you, and we are grateful for your time.  Is there anything else you would like readers to know? Any parting thoughts? 

JB: The dialogic techniques used in RARMA are important to integrate into pre-service and in-service programs as well as to share with families. Thank you for the opportunity to work with RARMA and keep up the great work.

Brockton Coordinated Family & Community Engagement

The Brockton CFCE program serves families with children from Birth-School age, helping find access to comprehensive services and supports.

CFCE programs are locally-based programs that provide child development services and resources to families with young children. Funding and support come from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and the Brockton Public Schools.