Making Headlines With Good News: Literacy Buddies In Schools

IMG_5450The annual STAR awards were held last week. STAR, which stands for Sharing Time and Resources, is a partnership between Volunteer Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Gazette which, since 1986 has been recognizing the contributions of outstanding volunteers who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism.

This year, 3,292 volunteers were nominated for STAR Awards. Their 2014 combined giving was 70,949 hours. What a wonderful community we live in!

Here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, we share with you one of those nominations:  Literacy Buddies, nominated within the “Youth Group Volunteer” category. Come back in two weeks, when we’ll feature CIS volunteer Patrick “Pat” Early, nominated within the “Adult Volunteer” category. The final winners within each of the 14 volunteering categories can be found here.

Actually, come back this MONDAY. For the past three years we have run our posts on Tuesdays but are making an exception to run a special Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids post from two passionate people who put kids first. You won’t want to miss it.

Literacy Buddies, which began in 2011 thanks to a State Farm grant awarded to CIS, pairs high school students with second grade students in order to improve reading, writing, homework, and vocabulary skills. Acting as positive role models, high school students offer one-on-one support to help motivate success for younger kids.

In 2014 the Kalamazoo Public high school students participating in the program volunteered 580 hours at Spring Valley Center for Exploration and Arcadia Elementary School.

An opportunity to give back to peers and the community is one of the five basics CIS believes all kids need and deserve. Literacy Buddies does just that. Older students see themselves as leaders; they see themselves as having something to offer their community and as part of that community. While the program provides younger students with a learning link to what high school might be like for them, it also teaches older students lessons in responsibility and commitment.

 Demond Jackson, a high school student and third year participant in Literacy Buddiesat Arcadia, said, It’s a really great program. I recommend it to anyone. It’s been a great experience. I didn’t have anyone to help me at this age. Now I’ve been giving back and have grown attached to working with these kids. I love seeing their smiles. I love helping them understand their work and giving them someone to look up to. I don’t plan to stop.”

IMG_1622eDeborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator at Kalamazoo Central, echoes the tremendous growth she’s seen in her students after participating in this program. “They come back year after year. They stand a little bit taller when they see themselves giving back to their community. A student just told me today ‘This is the best year yet!’”

Dominique Edwards, a Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and former CIS Board member, attended a three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall recently held in New Orleans. Sitting on a panel there, she stated her experience in high school: “I’m not a leader, I’m a shy introvert—no one is going to follow my lead…. Communities In Schools told me, ‘You do have leadership qualities, you are a leader.’ But I didn’t embrace that until [participating with] Literacy Buddies.” Given the opportunity to work through her fears in order to emerge as a role model, Dominique, like many of the current high school buddies, has developed self-confidence and owns her leadership skills.

IMG_1292eeLiteracy Buddies is lifting the self-esteem and confidence of all students who participate in the program. As  Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley says, “The impact goes beyond the academic piece. Relationship building made a difference on both sides…The program also teaches high schoolers how to give back and shows young children that it’s not just older people who can participate in community service.”

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What Are You Reading?

book-1031359_1920In anticipation of National Reading Month this March—in which Kalamazoo Public Schools kicks off literacy activities throughout the schools—we prepare ourselves by engaging in the annual ritual of asking via email: What are you reading? The emails started flying. We think it’s fun to learn what our CIS colleagues are reading…

I thought these snow days were a great time to finally start The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m a huge fan of the movies but I’ve never made the time to read the books. I’m half way through The Fellowship of the Ring and can’t put it down!

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS After School Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

I am currently reading the“Ashes” Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick.

-Orel (Tom) Sosa, CIS Site Coordinator, El Sol Elementary

 

I’ve just finished two wonderful memoirs: I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place by Howard Norman. Howard grew up in Grand Rapids and went to WMU in the 80s. He’s now teaching writing at U of Maryland. The book is episodic and focuses on his younger years as well as ten years he spent collecting stories from the Inuit in the Hudson Bay area in his 20s. The other book is Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure, a funny and sometimes painful story of his experience starting life in the Soviet Union in the 80s and then moving with his family to New York when he was 7, and the clash of cultures that he has experienced since that time and that has provided material for his novels. (Interesting fact: Gary was from a Jewish family in Leningrad and they were issued visas to leave the Soviet Union at a time when Russians were not permitted to emigrate. But after a drought and crop failures in Russia the Russian government made a deal with the U.S. which supplied shipments of wheat in exchange for allowing a number of Russian Jews to leave the country.)

-Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives

 

I am reading Key To Success, Letters to a Young Sister, and Letters To a Young Brother. These are books for our upcoming girls and guys group.

-Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I just finished reading Lessons of Hope by Joel Klein—former Chancellor of the New York City School District under Mayor Bloomberg.  I am now reading Angry Optimist a biography about Jon Stewart (The Daily Show).  I LOVE hearing what everyone is reading.

-Pam Kingery, Executive Director

 

stack-of-books-1001655_1920I have been reading The Triple Package, How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, a Chinese immigrant wife and a Jewish American husband. It is a true story about the vast differences in the values and expectations of the couple about raising their two daughters. The differences are based on the parents cultural differences in their own upbringing styles. I can easily identify myself in Amy’s style. The triple package referred to in the book title is identified as: 1. A Superiority Complex, 2. Insecurity, and 3. Impulse Control. Very interesting reading, but also realistic, and hit home to me!

I am reading another book by Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. You get the idea of what this one is about. A clash of cultures…

-Gulnar Husain, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary School

 

I’m reading Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

-Deondra S. Ramsey, CIS After School Program Coordinator, Washington Writers Academy

 

Currently I am rereading A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. It’s a part of the Outlander series. I sadly have not read very many new books in the last year due to my heavy reading for my classes. I can’t wait to be done with school so I can indulge in new books that I can really concentrate on!

-Elisabeth Finch, CIS Site Coordinator, Washington Writers Academy

 

I am reading Snow Mountain Passage by James D. Houston, a pioneer story about the Donner Party and their journey west.

-Destinee Lukianoff, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I love reading local and Quality Snacks hit the spot. I just finished this collection of short stories written by Andy Mozina, a professor at Kalamazoo College. If you want to munch on something smart and funny, this is it.

I now have two books at my bedside, ready to go. The novel, All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr, who wrote one of my favorite short story collections ever:The Shell Collector. And Deborah Ann Percy’s Invisible Traffic which has been described as “a stunning collection of desperate and gorgeous tales, set against the backdrop of Michigan’s third coast.” (Yes, the writer Deborah Ann Percy is the same woman who retired a few years back, having served a distinguished administrative career in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, notably as principal of Maple Street Magnet Middle School for the Arts.) Also, it is worth noting that the Richard N. Percy Memorial Fund Scholarships (available through CIS of Kalamazoo) is set up in memory of Deborah’s father, Richard Percy. He served as KPS superintendent from 1960-1969. These grants support professional development for Kalamazoo Public Schools’ teachers and administrators that address the individual’s personal interests, specifically their creative or artistic talents.

-Jennifer Clark, Director of Community Relations

 

books-1082942I am reading Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. I read it before in high school, and I loved it so much that I wanted to read it again.

-Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator, Woodward School for Technology and Research

 

I am on the tail end of three books right now. One is Adam Fairclough’s biography of Martin Luther King, another is a novel called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel—a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a caravan of survivors who travel around the Midwest performing Shakespeare—and the third is a poetry collection calledMotherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, by Patricia Lockwood.

I LOVE hearing what all of you are reading. And it also fuels my reading obsession!

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened  by Jenny Lawson is smart and HILARIOUS.  The Circle by Dave Eggers is scary and disturbing and smart and will make you never look at Facebook ever again. I recently finished and loved them both.

 Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary

 

I Just finished True Notebooks: A Writers Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman, which is a true story about a writer that goes into a Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles and teaches a writing class to some of the inmates and includes some of their work. A very interesting read.

I also just finished Amy Poehler’s and Lena Dunham’s books. Interesting, but Tina Fey’s and Mindy Kaling’s were better.

And now I am just starting Elephant Company by Vicki Croke about a man during WWII who saved a bunch of lives with the help of a herd of elephants. If you’ve been in my office, me reading a book about elephants probably won’t come as a surprise!

Elyse Brey, CIS Director of Secondary Sites

 

I just finished This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin and I’m working through [insert] Boy by Danez Smith and Reading the Muslim Mind by Hassan Hathout.

-Nicholas A. Baxter, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and now I plan on starting The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. I love hearing what you all are reading, it’s a great way to find books to add to my “to read” list!

-Lindsey Westfall, CIS After School Coordinator, Northglade Montessori Magnet School

 

I am working diligently on The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership by Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis.  Someone recommended it to me.  If you are a fan of continuous improvement for self and organization, this is the book for you.

I also just finished Dad is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan (the guy who does the “Hot Pockets” sketch).  It is a fast, funny read – especially if you have kids (of any age).  It’s based on his own life with 5 kids in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City.

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

It may be the time of year or particular time in my life, but I can never get enough information or begin to research everything that interests me. My thoughts are now drifting to my gardens, grapes, strawberries, fruit trees, and honey bees. I’m currently reading up on organic methods of dealing with fungus, blight, and bugs. I read my magazines, books, and  IPad planning for the upcoming season. Actually, I should be cutting back my grape vines now.

-Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue by Judith Orloff. This book guides you through fighting off negative energy and how to cope with everyday life. This is a good read.

-Brenda Johnson, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I just finished Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Just in case you missed the news (or the baby bump) we are expecting a new baby in June. This book is a great reminder to trust women and our bodies.

-Leslie Poucher Pratt, CIS Site Coordinator, Prairie Ridge Elementary School

 

I am reading Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas.  It is one of the books about the television show Veronica Mars.

-Cakneeshia Stegall, AmeriCorps VISTA


Sadly, I am only reading After-School Centers and Youth Development: Case Studies of Success and Failure by Barton J. Hirsch, Nancy L. Deutsch, and David L. DuBois.

I did receive a magazine as a Pay It Forward gift recently that I am eager to crack open. It shares/highlights 100 major Civil Rights moments.

-Artrella Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I am currently reading through each state’s flexibility waiver from the ESEA / No Child Left Behind act to compare school accountability systems across the U.S., specifically looking at the correlation between a school’s performance and student poverty. I don’t recommend any of these documents to anyone, but perhaps I’ll share my research paper later. I look forward to reading for pleasure again very soon.

Oh, also baby books – I’m reading a lot of baby books…

-James Hissong, Director of Quality and Evaluation

 

Still don’t have enough? Click here to see what people were reading last year. We’d love to hear what you are reading. Let us know! Just drop me an email atjclark@ciskalamazoo.org. We may just publish what are readers are reading in a future post.

We Geek The Library

Book w GlassesHere at Communities In Schools, we’ve been talking about how much we love our Kalamazoo Public Library. The organization and its people are a part of what makes Kalamazoo excellent.

Speaking of the library, did you remember to vote today? On the ballot is the millage renewal for both the Kalamazoo Public Library and the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency. If you didn’t catch the Kalamazoo Gazette Editorial in Sunday’s paper, you can read it here. Now go out and vote! I’ll wait right here. The polls are open from 7am to 8pm.

Welcome back. Feels good to exercise your right as a citizen, doesn’t it? Anyway, here are just nine reasons we love our library…

They bring us together.

Huge numbers of us read and discuss the same book in the Reading Together program. By doing so, we become wiser as a community.

KPL is an information hub for our community.

Check out Consumer Reports, find a book on origami or learn about financial derivatives.

No computer? No problem.

Just go to your local library branch and computers and computer help are waiting for you.

They reach out to all members of our community.

With multiple branches and programming geared to every age—from babies to tweens to seniors and all in between—everyone is welcome. Whatever we geek, the library supports us! How cool is that?

(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner
(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner

They promote a college going culture.

Whether suggesting books to read—in person or on their blog—the Kalamazoo Public Library encourages us all to read. One of the 8 pillars identified by the Kalamazoo Public Schools for building a college going culture is: “Everyone Reads/Literacy: Language Development, Reading, and Writing.” KPL, in a joint endeavor with Kalamazoo Public Schools, works hard to make sure every KPS first grader has a library card and is a library user.

As a KPS parent, I had the opportunity to chaperone my son’s class on their library trip. I watched librarians asking children what topics interested them and then escorting the children—some who had never set foot inside a public library until that day—to shelves filled with books on the subject they wanted to know more about. It is a thing of beauty to watch the world open for a child as, for the first time, they check out a library book.

They remind us that reading is fun.

They run a fabulous summer reading program. If you have never signed up your child, encouraged others to sign up or signed up yourself, you owe it to yourself to do so.

They play well with others.

KPL partners with a number of terrific organizations throughout the community to co-host family friendly event at the Central Library the first Saturday of every month. Called First Saturdays @ KPL,  CIS loved partnering with our library in hosting a First Saturday which offers fun, free activities.

They keep us hip.

They provide e-books for our Kindle Fires, DVD’s, movies, and music—all at no charge.

They remind us that reading is not an option.

KPL brings great writers to Kalamazoo, like Walter Dean Myers, who are passionate about books and inspire young and old alike. “Either you read or you suffer,” Mr. Myers said during his “Reading is Not Optional” tour this past summer. “A child will pay the penalty for a lack of literacy throughout their life.”

Pop Quiz: Hailiey From Spring Valley Center For Exploration


IMG_2192Today’s pop quiz features Hailiey Houser, a fifth grader at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. She has been involved with CIS for three years now and is featured within our latest CIS Connections newsletter which you can read 
here.  Alright, Hailiey, pencil out. Here we go!

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m in Read 180 and it’s really great. Right now, we’re learning about how to stop bullies and stand up for ourselves. Some school have formed anti-bulling clubs, the kids will make posters, hang them around the school. We’re talking about what we want to do in our school when it comes to bullying.

What are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading Writing Freedom. It’s about a girl whose parents get in an accident and they pass away. She ends up finding a horse she loves. I think this story is interesting because it’s about animals and a mystery at the same time. I also love the Percy Jackson series. I’m on The Son of Neptune, the first book in the second series.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have the Kalamazoo Promise® so I want to go to either Michigan State University or Western Michigan University. I plan to be a writer, doctor, a vet, a singer, and a teacher. I love little kids.

What is your favorite word right now?

Fantastic. 

You said that quickly, without blinking an eye.

Well, it’s been my favorite word for the past five years.

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

Seeing my dad for my birthday. Since he lives in Tennessee I don’t get to see him often. 

Behind every successful student is a caring adult.  Who is one of your caring adults?

My mom, my step-dad, and my dad…They have gotten me through really tough times. Also, my math teacher, Mr. Smith and my Read 180 teacher, Ms. Krzebietke, or “Ms. K” as us kids call her. They are both great. And Ms. Martha because she’s helped my family a lot, especially this year.  She  got me involved in College Club, Girls on the Run and the Writer’s Workshop where all the people—especially Ms. Molly, help me with writing. Ms. Molly has been with me all this year and she helped me write my first book, The Powerful Mouse which I dedicated to my family and friends! [Hailiey holds up her book.] Oh no! I just now noticed the mouse is missing a leg! [She laughs, then sets the book down.] I’m working on my second book now called The Connection. It’s about a girl who is a vet, finds a dog without a tag, and develops a relationship with him.

Thank you, Hailiey!

IMG_2196While you can read ”All the Write Moves” in the current CIS Connections newsletter, in which Hailiey and her CIS Site Coordinator reflect on the academic success Hailiey is experiencing at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, we’ll end today’s post with a portion of the interview that you’ll only find here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids… 

Hailiey is keenly aware that she must work hard now to prepare herself not just forLinden Grove Middle School come fall, but for college. “Going to college is important,” she points out. “That way, you can have a good life and get a good job. Since Ms. Martha got me involved in the College Club I have written a letter to Michigan State. They wrote back and sent me a banner, a packet of things I need to know to prepare for college. Did you know that you have to stay in college for a certain amount of time, depending upon what type of job you are looking to do? I also learned that you also have to write well to do well in college. Every Wednesday at recess time I do the Writer’s Workshop. I work closely with Ms. Molly. I do the work but she has been there all this year to help me. I’m also doing Girls on the Run again. I first did it in 3rdgrade and I have a medal at home for running the 5K we do at the end of the program. Girls on the Run is about running but it’s also about meeting new people and making new friends. I did a good job with that, so I’m looking forward to it again. Ms. Martha also helped me get to Pretty Lake Camp last year and I’ll also be going there again this summer. Last year, a turtle peed on my shoes and luckily I made some good friends because one of them had an extra pair of tennis shoes I could wear. That was good because my shoes smelled something awful.”

Pop Quiz: Andrew From Spring Valley Center For Exploration

IMG_2188I recently sat down with Andrew Hedgpeth, a second grader in Mrs. McCurley’s class at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. He is also in his second year with the Writer’s Workshop, a program run by a group of CIS volunteers. As Andrew explains, “Every Wednesday during recess time about five of us meet in the library and work on our books. The first time that I started doing this, I knew [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. Martha put me in the perfect place. I love to write and have been doing it for a long time now.” Andrew has authored three books so far and dedicates his latest, Twice the Basketball, “to my family and my cousin Ethen.” The book begins and ends with Andrew eating a hotdog. “I really like this ending,” Andrew says and then with a laugh, adds, “Hotdogs, too!”

Alright, Andrew: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

You can write about anything you want to write about when it comes to writing. I have written about basketball, a type of vegetable, and the first book I ever wrote was about monster trucks. I’m part of the writing workshops where we do a lot of things to make books and so I’ve written about a lot of things. I write books in my class also. Writing is one of my favorite things to do.

What are you currently reading?

Books about aliens and interesting things like that. In fact, I wrote a book called Alien Invasion. I wrote it all by myself with no helping.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I will go to the one my mom went to.

What college is that?

I can’t remember but I’ll definitely go there. See, I want to be a professional book writer. I will write about funny things and send them to my friends and family and they will send them on to their friends and families so a whole lot of people will read my books.

What is your favorite word right now?

Just one word?

IMG_2189
Illustration featured in Andrew’s book, Twice the Basketball

That’s kind of hard for a writer to think of just one word isn’t it?

Yes it is!

Well, then, what are a few of your favorites?

Aliens, monster trucks, basketball, lions, and horses.

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

Playing my last game of basketball. I am undefeatable.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?

My mom, my dad and some of my family. They help me spell words and do those kind of things to help me be a good student. My teacher, Mrs. McCurley, and my classmates all care too. And all the writing workshop people. Ms. Martha, too.

What Are You Reading?

In anticipation of National Reading Month, we’re posting a series of emails that have recently flown between CIS staff. We did this last year and once again, it’s been fun to see what my colleagues are reading. We’ll begin with Artrella’s email that started it all…

A month from now (give or take a few days) Kalamazoo Public Schools will be kicking off its Literacy Month activities at the various schools (National Reading Month is March). I personally think that it is always fun to see the READ posters out at the sites and various KPS buildings when I am out. My curiosity leads me to ask the question…WHAT ARE YOU READING???  

I just received my book via Amazon today, which is a part of my Book Club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature). It is 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Do share…

-Artrella M. Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I’m reading Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. “In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at the Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.” Challenging subject material, but excellent writing.

-Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives

 

I just got a box delivered from a friend living in India, and she sent me: Ayoni and Other Stories, a compilation of stories written by various Indian writers “who have focused on women’s issues…and altered the Telugu [Indian ethnic group] literary scene…. These stories deal with the dilemmas and problems faced by women, both on the physical and emotional levels.”

So far, I like how one of the writers captures one of my personal gestures, a blank stare, via writing by the usage of “…”. Tis awesome!!

-Haley A-bel, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet Middle School

 

I’m reading Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders and have recently finished A Woman in the Polar Night, by Christiane Ritter, the story of a year spent by a woman in a tiny hut on an island in the arctic circle which makes our recent Polar Vortex look like a walk in the park.

-Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives

 

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. A classic introduction to Taoism I have read a few times and it’s always soothing for me.

-Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet

 

I am reading Affirming Your Greatness Through The Power of Words by Burnette Clingman and Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

-Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I’ve just finished gorging myself with Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food, edited by Peggy Wolff. I’m on to the next course, a combination ofTell Me, poems by one of my favorite poets Kim Addonizio and Traveling Sprinkler, a novel by Nicholson Baker, one of the most uninhibited, funny writers I’ve ever read. Take page 96, for instance. I wanted to tell the Quakers about Debussy’s sunken cathedral. I kept formulating an opening in my head. “A little more than a hundred years ago, a composer named Claude Debussy wrote a piece for piano called ‘The Sunken Cathedral.’ He was a man with a big forehead who loved the sea.

-Jennifer Clark, Director of Community Relations

 

I just finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Just started a novel called The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.

–Pam Kingery, Executive Director

 

I am reading Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women, by Melissa Harris Perry and just started the third book in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. Yes, #nerdpoints.

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

I am currently reading one of this year’s “Reading Together” books: The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan. I also just finished reading a book called Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.  It is a historical fiction on the Borgia family in Italy.

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

I am listening to Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and just finished listening to MansfieldPark by Jane Austen. I just finished reading the first two books in the Divergent Seriesby Veronica Roth and am impatiently waiting for my daughters to finish the third.  At one point during reading the first book there were 3 book marks in it.  I love it when we all read the same book- The Newsome Girls Book Club!  It’s really great when we get my mom to join in, too!!

Next in line are Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmakerby Jennifer Chiaverni, both historical fiction.

-Debra Newsome, Finance Coordinator

 

Wild Things by Dave Eggers!! Check him out if you haven’t; he’s fantastic.

-Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator, Woodward School for Technology and Research

 

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins. I highly recommend!

-Abby Nappier, Director of Volunteer Services

 

I’m reading A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. They’re amazing – you guys should just stop reading your current books and switch to these.  🙂

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

Currently reading Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn Glei. Great book for learning how to work smarter and find creativity even when you have no time or energy for it.

P.S. I love seeing what everyone is reading.

-Korrine Wojcik, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Elementary

P.P.S. We hope you also loved reading what we are reading. We’d love to hear what you are reading. Let us know! We may just publish what are readers are reading in the near future.

 

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago we launched this blog: Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. There were over 181 million blogs when we began and there are probably more than that now. The blogosphere is bloated with lots of blogs (say this sentence 10 times). So thank you, dear readers, for choosing to read this blog. To celebrate our year together, I’ve made a delicious chocolate cheesecake (recipe can be found here) and if you want a slice, stop down to our office today. We’ll be offering them on a first come, first serve basis.) In addition, we’re whooping it up by sharing 17 blogtoids* about our one-year-old blog:

  1. In one year, we offered up 53 posts; that’s basically a fresh post every Tuesday.
  2.  Donna Carroll and I welcomed 11 guest bloggers, composed of CIS staff, board, and partners. Thank you Emily, Artrella, Bethany, Melissa, James, Dom, Sandy, Pam, Bonnie, Kaitlin, and Carly for contributing your voice to this blog. Thanks to all the kids, parents, school and community partners who shared their thoughts with us. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you as well as new voices this school year.
  3.  Over half of our 53 posts have highlighted individuals or entities in this community. If all our 12,000 plus kids are going to succeed in school and life, it’s going to take a lot of committed adults working together.
  4.  All 18 of the Kalamazoo Public School buildings that have CIS (we’re in 19 schools this new year, having most recently added Woodward School for Technology & Research) have been mentioned at least once in one or more posts. We love the Kalamazoo Public Schools!
  5. We named names. And we won’t stop. We’ll continue to tell you who is making a difference for kids through CIS.
  6.  You’re smarter because of this blog. You’ve read topics here ranging from literacy, mentoring, resiliency, and music. You’ve discovered what dental care and food have to do with academic success. You’ve read impressive phrases (thanks to guest blogger like CIS board member and partner Dom Pullo) such as “students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction…”
  7.  Three of our posts caught the attention of National CIS. Woo, hoo!
  8.  Most cried over blog post: Open Letter to A Father Who Will Never Read This.
  9.  Funniest post: Don’t Name Your Blog “The Blog.”
  10.  Post that received the most response from teachers and other school staff: Cast Your Vote for Kids.
  11.  Post that featured our hairiest school volunteers: Kaitlin Martin’s Paws for Stories.
  12.  Hardest post to write: Engineers of the Heart.
  13.  Funnest post to write: Six and a Half Things to Do While We’re Away.
  14.  Most fashionable post: Threads.
  15.  Post that featured one of our favorite student interviews: Pop Quiz: Lincoln International Studies Student.
  16.  Hardest thing about blogging? Coming up with a title for each post that is provocative without being too provocative. It needs to be something catchy that will make you want to read more than just the title.
  17. Most rewarding thing about blogging? Seeing and sharing CIS in action—with you, the partners, volunteers, donors, parents, staff, and learning about the wonderful students who are empowered because of your support.

We have only begun to introduce you to some of your 12,000 kids and the hundreds of caring adults who are helping to raise them. Stay with us this year and continue to get a behind the scenes glimpse of CIS in action. At Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids you will continue to meet the talented teachers, hard working principals, and dedicated community volunteers, partners, and CIS staff who are empowering our children to succeed. We look forward to turning two with you.

*A blogtoid is a term I made up just for this post. (I hope this makes you feel special!) A blogtoid is a fact or deeply held opinion about a blog.

Birthday Candles

Finding Words in Your Pockets

(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner
(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner

Last week, the Kalamazoo Public Library introduced kids and grownups alike to Walter Dean Myers as part of his “Reading is Not Optional” tour sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council and the Every Child a Reader Foundation.

What a treat! It’s not everyday you have a chance to meet the national ambassador for young people’s literature. A prolific and award-winning author, Mr. Myers is the third person appointed to this post since it was created in 2008. In honor of his visit, KPL put one of his quotes—“Reading is not an option” on a bunch of buttons. Very cool.

On Wednesday, I attended a breakfast/talk hosted at the library. It quickly became clear that Mr. Myers, considered by many to be one of the most important writers in children’s books, is the kind of man who calls things like he sees them. A tall man, Mr. Myers is funny, bright, and spirited. He has an uncommon knack for appearing to be laid back and feisty all at once. I was expecting Mr. Myers to read some of his work, throw out a few interested tidbits and then be on his way.

He didn’t do this. He didn’t read any of his work and what he said was not what I expected to hear. One of the first words out of his mouth was “poverty.” When Mr. Myers talks about poverty, he isn’t talking about economics. He is referring to, “pockets of language poverty” that our children experience. Anyone who works with kids these days knows that too many of our children are growing up with not only a scarcity of food and lack of sufficient housing, but also, a dearth of words.

Some researchers have even taken the time to document this “pockets of language poverty.” Every hour, a child growing up in poverty is exposed to 1,500 less words than a child who is not being raised in poverty. This means that by the time the poor child is four years old, he or she is behind by 32 million words. This word deficit is mind-boggling. It makes the heart heavy to think about all the children who have deep pockets from which they pull out nothing.

“Literacy is a tool all kids need,” Mr. Myers said. “Either you read or you suffer,” he said. “A child will pay the penalty for a lack of literacy throughout their life.”  These aren’t warm and fuzzy statements to make and Mr. Myers knows it. But he is the kind of person who, from what I could tell, calls it like he sees it. “I’m an old black man. I can say whatever I want,” he told the audience. We laughed but we know his comments are true and need to be spoken aloud. Mr. Meyers is serving our nation well as an ambassador, for we too will pay the penalty for every child we fail to reach.

The good news is that our kids here are part of a community that has committed itself to being the education community. Together, as parents, community partners and educators we are filling the pockets of language. These pockets are deep. It is not a matter of simply tucking a word in here and there. To be successful, we must, asSuperintendent Dr. Michael Rice says, have a “drumbeat of literacy.” For the sake of all our children it’s time for all of us to play, and play hard.

Have you picked up your drumsticks, lately?

Want to know more about Walter Dean Myers? Check out his NPR interview here. And if you missed local coverage of his visit, check out Erin Gignac’s article here on MLive.

Reading is not optional