Ready Readers Plus Combats Literacy and Math Obstacles for Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland Members

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years.  We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring their accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months. 

Our second guest post comes from The Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland, written by Jazmine Walker, Academic Success Manager.

Boys and Girls ClubThe Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland have made many positive strides over the last 10 years. One of which includes adding Ready Readers Plus onto our list of programs!

Ready Readers Plus is an early literacy program aimed at improving the math and reading skills for members’ ages 6 to 9 years old through a series of fun, educational and familial opportunities.  It has been shown through low literacy scores in Cleveland that there is a deficit in the way our members are learning. More and more, we are encountering members that are consistently passing through grades but are not able to perform basic calculating functions. The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland decided to combat these obstacles, so that our members will be able to keep a competitive edge in academia. This is done through program based on a curriculum outline that’s aligned with 5 common core standards, a family engagement component and incentives!

RRP instructors have made conscience decisions to be intentional while creating an environment that is conducive to productivity, fun and academia. Our Family Engagement component is also essential to the success of the program. Each site has one family night event per month. So far, 44% of parents reported a greater confidence in their child’s advancement in school as a result of attending the RRP program at least 3 times per week. Parent involvement at the Walton Club has increased substantially during the 2015-16 program year. The teachers and administrators at the Boys and Girls Club (2)school have provided BGCC with the NWEA standardized testing scores for the 2nd grade students (members and non-members), and are in the process of providing us with test scores for all grade levels. This is a big victory for our organization as it can be very challenging to obtain grade information from our school sites. Having this information serves as a means for us to compare our member’s progress to non-members and based on the comparison we have done on the 2nd graders scores, the results show that Club members at Walton performed better on this exam than their non-attending peers!

We are excited to see what accomplishments our members will make this school year! We are anticipating that 50% of our members will increase their math and reading skills.

Ten years ago, there was no early literacy program comparable to RRP at BGCC. Members are now being exposed to a setting that is educational, yet exhilarating!

To learn more about The Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland be sure to check out their website: .

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well!

Ten Years With America SCORES Cleveland – Donte’s Story of Continued Growth and Success

2016 marks The Literacy Cooperative’s 10 year anniversary! To celebrate this milestone, we partnered with the Cleveland Bridge Builders Class of 2016 to showcase community organizations across Greater Cleveland that have incorporated literacy-based programs into their scope of service during the past 10 years.  We asked them to write a post highlighting their journey, featuring the accomplishments, achievements and how they have helped the community learn and grow over the last ten years. We will be featuring the posts throughout the next few months. 

Our first guest post comes from America SCORES Cleveland, written by Boo Geisse, Program Manager.

America SCORES Cleveland - Core Group Photo - Poetry Slam 2015

America SCORES Cleveland, Core Group at Poetry SLAM! 2015

Ten years ago, Donte Washington was a second grader at Empire Computech Elementary School in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood. An exceptional student from a religious, two-parent home, Donte struggled not with academics or poor behavior but with low self-confidence and extreme shyness.

“I was introverted, quiet, not willing to do anything,” he says. “I was a kid who didn’t participate in anything.”

Enter America SCORES Cleveland. A literacy and health youth development organization, America SCORES Cleveland impacts Cleveland youth by providing soccer and writing instruction after school.

When Donte first encountered SCORES in 2006, the organization was only two years old and had just expanded into the east side of Cleveland. Luckily for Donte, his school was one of them.

“I didn’t think I was going to like it,” he admits. “I had no idea what soccer was. I had never written a poem in my life.”

Donte’s comments are typical, repeated hundreds if not thousands of times in the ears of SCORES staff members. Soccer in the inner city? Poetry for youth who struggle to read and write? The odds seemed stacked against it.

Yet in the twelve years SCORES has run its unique programming in Cleveland city schools, the results continue to impress, and impress upon we who work for SCORES, the significance of the organization.

Ten years ago, America SCORES Cleveland was a small grassroots organization struggling to survive. Today, SCORES spans nine Cleveland schools in five neighborhoods and is geared for greater growth.

“When I came on, we were a three-person staff in seven schools, with only one program per school,” says Executive Director Debi Pence-Meyenberg.

SCORES was on uncertain ground when Debi started. In her first two months at the organization, she hired Matthew Williams, Program Director. A year later she brought Paul Khacherian on board as Associate Director. All three remain at SCORES today, and, with an additional two full-time staff members and a core group of dedicated interns, the program has grown to serve over 600 youths each year.

Here’s the breakdown: In 2008, SCORES expanded its 3rd-5th grade programming to include 6th-8th graders, growing the program alongside its dedicated poet-athletes. 2012 saw the birth of the Alumni Program for high school students who aged out of typical programming. Today, alums referee SCORES soccer games, act as assistant coaches to existing SCORES teams, volunteer at SCORES events and participate in college and career readiness programs hosted at the SCORES office. In 2014, the organization grew yet again—this time to create a “Jr. SCORES” program for 1st and 2nd graders.

“We have quadrupled in size,” says Debi. And greater reach means greater impact.

“SCORES programming now serves a CMSD student for an eleven year continuum,” says Matthew. “SCORES has been able to breathe life into our schools and our neighborhoods by providing positive team activities.”

Donte America Scores Cleveland

Donte sharing his America SCORES experience at Poetry SLAM! in November, 2015

Nobody demonstrates this impact as fully as Donte. After that first season, he spent every year, every season in SCORES that he could. As a middle schooler, he was elected team captain by his soccer coach; he led warm-ups, ran drills and soccer practices and helped his team remain undefeated during his eighth grade year. In ninth grade, Donte emailed SCORES about staying involved—an inquiry that played a large part in the creation of the Alumni Program.

“[The SCORES staff] had had conversations about starting one,” Donte says. “And I just so happened to email them about staying in the program, and that’s what started it.”

Today, Donte remains one of SCORES’ most active alums. In addition to the work he does for SCORES, Donte is a high school senior, an employee at Marc’s and was recently accepted into Cleveland State University, where he will begin his college career this fall. Additionally, last November, when volunteering at SCORES’ signature annual event, the Poetry SLAM!, Donte was approached by a SCORES board member and offered a summer internship at a Cleveland company.

Of course, none of this surprises those who know him; Donte is recognized as a successful young man and a leader by all. From former coaches to SCORES staff, and poet-athletes to complete strangers, his presence leaves an indelible impression.

“Donte’s kindness, generosity and dedication are what have impressed me the most,” says Matthew, who has, alongside Debi and Paul, watched Donte grow up.

These types of comments still take the eighteen year old by surprise—but while he remains soft spoken and humble, Donte’s shyness is fading in the light of something new: a realization of who he truly is, and who he is to become.

“I have grown to be a leader,” he says. He contributes much of his transformation to his time with America SCORES Cleveland. “Without SCORES, I honestly don’t think I would be in the position I am today. SCORES kept me out of trouble. It taught me right from wrong. It’s the biggest opportunity I’ve had.”

As we at America SCORES Cleveland look back on the past ten years—of Donte’s life and our own—we can’t help but feel excited for the future. Donte plans to become a graphic designer; he’d like to design footwear and continue to volunteer and make positive change in his community.

And us? In addition to our regular programming, SCORES currently hosts four fundraising events each year, is on the national curriculum development team for all America SCORES’ affiliates, is a member of the Slavic Village P-16 Initiative, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture “Cultural Partner,” a GCNCA P4SS and MyCom partner agency and, last year, received its first financial support from United Way of Great Cleveland.

Despite all of this, SCORES has no plans on slowing down.

Feliciana - United Way Annual Meeting 3

Feliciana Hambrick-Thomas performing her poem, ‘Confusion,’ at United Way Annual Meeting March 4th, 2016

Ask Debi what her plans are for the future, and this is the answer you’ll receive: “In ten years we’ll have a staff of ten to twenty. We’ll be in twenty schools, and they’ll all host 1st through 8th grade programming. We’ll have a direct referral program for our alums and scholarships for our students for college.”

Some may think these goals lofty, but this mentality has not only kept America SCORES Cleveland alive all these years, it has made it thrive.

“I am inspired and humbled by the extraordinary youth I have the privilege to work with each day,” Debi says. “I continue to do this work because I believe these youth need a positive outlet for their creativity, and programs like America SCORES keep kids on the right path to achieve their full potential.”

We’ll drink (coffee) to that.

To learn more about America SCORES Cleveland head over to their website,

Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter as well!


CLE-BEE Corporate Spelling Bee

CLE-Bee graphic

Can you spell C-O-M-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N? On September 8th 2016, word connoisseurs from across Northeast Ohio will gather together for a “friendly” Corporate Spelling Bee. The event will raise awareness around the implications of low literacy and funds for The Literacy Cooperative.  The inaugural CLE-BEE will take place at The City Club of Cleveland and will be a fun event that will bring together members of the community while getting out the message about the challenges of literacy.

Over our ten year existence, we have hosted a number of events featuring prominent speakers about different aspects of the literacy, but we have never hosted our own fundraising event. We here at The Literacy Cooperative asked ourselves what kind of event would bring together the community, allow us to get the message out about literacy and its challenges and also be fun? A Corporate Spelling Bee seemed like the perfect idea. It is literacy themed and can easily involve all members of the corporate community from law firms and banks to community organizations.

The spelling bee will also provide an opportunity to amplify our message about literacy. One of our goals is to bring broader awareness of the challenges of literacy to our community and this event will allow us to do just that.

The CLE-BEE will take place September 8th, in conjunction with our annual celebration of International Literacy Day. The competition will consist of four brackets: legal, banking/financial, corporate and community. There will be 32 teams total who will participate in four qualifying rounds. The final four teams, the champions from each bracket, will compete against each other to determine who is the ultimate spelling champion in Northeast Ohio.

Do you want to participate in the spelling bee? You will be in good company with teams from great organizations like Lubrizol, Eaton, BakerHostetler, and Thompson Hine. We are in the process of registering teams now. Registration forms and a flyer can be found here. Want more information about the event? Contact Elaine Yeip at Also be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we will be using #CLEBEE to share up-to-date information about the event.

Read Across America Day – March 2nd

 NEOReads2March 2nd, 2016 is Read Across America Day. It is a day, created by the National Education Association, where everyone across the country picks up a book and reads together. It is a day to raise awareness about the importance of reading and literacy. We at The Literacy Cooperative along with a number of organizations across the area are joining together to show the rest of the country how much Northeast Ohio values literacy.

Want to join in the celebration? Love to read? Understand how important literacy is to the growth and well-being of our city? Here are some ideas of ways you can show your love for reading on March 2nd!

  • Read Together– Grab friends, family members or coworkers, the books you are all currently reading and sit down and read together. Whether it is during you lunch break, before work or school or as a way to unwind at night. Show those around you how much you love to read and share together the joy of reading. Snap a picture of your group enjoying a good story and post it to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #NEOReads. We will be liking and sharing posts and pictures all day!
  • Celebrate Dr. Seuss’s Birthday – Read Across America Day is also Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. One of the main ways many people, cities and organizations celebrate the day is by dong some fun activities to celebrate the wit and quirky writings of Dr. Seuss. Do you own or run a daycare? Are you a teacher? Throw a fun birthday party for Dr. Seuss, where you read one of his stories, act it out or make up your own silly and fun rhymes. There is no better way to celebrate a love of reading then celebrating a man who wrote some fantastic stories. Check out the Seussville site for some great ideas and activities, . Don’t forget to share the fun and festivities with us using  #NEOReads.
    Read Acrosss America Day St. Claire school (2)
  • Read 20 mins with your child – Reading just 20 minutes a day with your child can make a world of difference. Let them choose their favorite Dr. Seuss book or any other favorite book and spend some time together reading. Even have them dress up as their favorite character as a way to truly bring the story to life! Make it a daily routine!
Read Across America Day St. Claire School (3)

Kindergarten and First Grade Class of St. Clare School

  •  Sign up for the 2000 Days Pledge – More than anything else the first 2000 days from birth to kindergarten have the single greatest effect on a child’s life. Take the 2000 days pledge, and pledge to make the most of this time to ensure that your child will succeed throughout his or her life.

These are just some ideas. The most important thing you can do on March 2nd, is take some time out to read, either with a group, alone or with your children. Help us show the rest of the country that NEO values reading and literacy. We are looking forward to seeing all the      pictures and posts about the way you celebrate Read Across America Day with us on March, 2nd, 2016.

Remember to share your reading pictures and celebrations with #NEOReads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We will be sharing and liking posts all day!


sun_swooshHave you ever thought about how much you read on a daily basis? It is a skill many of us who are literate take for granted every day. Part of your morning routine may be taking medications. You read the label to know how much to take, when and with what foods. You read through a recipe in order to make your family a delicious and nutritious meal. On your way to work you read road signs in order to find your way quickly and efficiently. If you don’t drive you read the bus schedule so that you can make it to work on time.

Now imagine that you can’t read. You need a job but you can’t read the application.  You have three different medications to take but you can’t read the names, dates or times and cannot take them when you need to.  You can’t read the nutritional information on a package and thus can’t make the right dietary decisions for you and your family. Can you now see how difficult life would be if you could not read?

The Literacy Cooperative understands how important and essential being able to read and write is for everyday life. In Cleveland 66% of adult residents are low literate. In some Cleveland neighborhoods (Kinsman and Hough) the illiteracy rate is as high as 95%. These are statistics that beg for change and The Literacy Cooperative is working to enact that change.

This year The Literacy Cooperative turns ten. Twelve years ago, The Cleveland Foundation, The George Gund Foundation and the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation gathered together a broad spectrum of the community to seek creative and new solutions of low literacy and its implications. Over the course of 14 months the effort brought together more than 300 individuals representing 250 organizations.  The group came to a consensus on two key recommendations: develop an action plan and create a collaborative organization to carry out that plan.  This outcome showed that there were many service providers working with a number of individuals but there was no organization that was focused on the systematic changes that were are needed to advance literacy. The collaborative organization created to focus on these systematic changes became The Literacy Cooperative in 2006.

For the past 10 years The Literacy Cooperative has been working hard to advance literacy by raising awareness of the issue, promoting effective public advocacy and fostering a delivery system with maximum impact on the region. The three main focus areas The Literacy Cooperative works around are Early Literacy, Adult Literacy and Career Pathways, and Parent Engagement.

The Literacy Cooperative is an intermediary nonprofit, meaning we work with other organizations in order to direct systemic change. Our vision is to ensure that all children and adults in Greater Cleveland will reach their highest literacy potential for employment, self-sufficiency and life-long learning.  The Literacy Cooperative is working with a number of programs and pilots; for more information check out the rest of our website or come back here for further blog posts about these projects.

This is just a very quick and concise introduction into who we are as an organization. We are involved in many different aspects of literacy and are working on a number of initiatives. This blog will be one of our ways to help keep the community informed and involved! For more posts about the number of organizations and programs we support as well reading recommendations from our staff and even guest posts, be sure to bookmark this page and check back for updates!

Be sure to check out our other Social Media pages on Twitter, FacebookInstagram and Linkedin to stay up-to-date on future blog posts as well as everything else we are working on.

We want to hear from you.  How would illiteracy affect your day to day life? And what are ways you are helping to fight illiteracy in our community?