Tag Archive for: Literacy

Elizabeth Poulos, Our Summer Intern, Reflects on Her Time with The Literacy Cooperative

Liz blog postElizabeth Poulos interned with The Literacy Cooperative from May to July of this year (2016) as part of the Williams Alumni Internship Grant. The Williams Alumni Internship Grant is designed to allow students to engage in constructive and innovative projects which address significant needs, link knowledge and structural change within society. Ms. Poulos will be a sophomore at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

As part of her intern experience she worked on projects related to our early literacy initiatives. In the following piece she reflects on what she learned about the literacy crisis in our city as well as the important role literacy programs, like our program STEP, play in connecting the city to tools and resources needed to fight this crisis.

“Some Cleveland neighborhoods like Hough, Fairfax, Central, and Kinsman, have functional illiteracy rates as high as 95%.” I first came in contact with this statistic about a month into my internship at The Literacy Cooperative, when I was compiling literacy facts for their upcoming Corporate Spelling Bee. When I first read this I was surprised, not only by the gravity of the situation, but also its extent in neighborhoods with which I was familiar. How does one approach a problem when it was so widespread?

The more statistics I read, the more dwarfed my efforts as an intern felt in the face of the giant odds when fighting for literacy in Cleveland. Yet, upon further reflection, I realized that as someone working at a nonprofit, as someone fighting for a cause, you can’t let the statistics get the best of you. Yes, these statistics are incredibly helpful, and they can mark meaningful reform and progress being made in literacy policy in Northeast Ohio; but the moment when I felt most connected to the issue of literacy, and progress being made in the city, was when I read the survey responses of kids who had taken part in the STEP reading intervention program with the help of support from their school and The Literacy Cooperative. I had been learning a lot about the STEP program by reading about it on our website, rethinking the pamphlet we use about STEP, cutting and organizing different STEP packets, but nothing compared to the insight I got about STEP, and literacy efforts here in Cleveland, than the responses of those young scholars.

STEP, or Supporting Tutors Engaging Pupils, is a supplementary reading intervention tutoring program that TLC shepherded into the system’s of several Northeast Ohio schools, like George Washington Carver. STEP helps students by giving them a chance to practice reading, and to build their literacy skills with tutors who have been provided with the structure and tools to help their scholar’s soar. Although not all the scholar responses were positive (often STEP time infringes on the oh-so-popular recess time), what I sensed in every survey was the receptiveness, and eagerness of each student to try: to try and read, to try to learn, to try and build the literacy skills they will use for life. For many of these students, STEP helped meet this eagerness with quality tools and programming that provided clear positive results. What became clear to me was not that we need to work harder as a movement to get the scholars excited and eager to learn, but that the real challenge lies in providing the same level of energy in the resources they are given to improve their literacy, to give them the best possible tools to make those improvements. And that’s what The Literacy Cooperative does, and I think that’s what I found to be my true goal in my time there as an intern; to help the organization, and to help connect literacy efforts around the city with the tools and resources they need to make a real difference.

There is Still Time to Beat the Summer Slide

Summer Slide blogThe summer is winding down. How have you spent these warm weeks? On a family vacation? Taking walks in the park, playing at the beach? Going to festivals or amusement parks? How about reading together or doing a handful of math problems with your child once a day?

Don’t let the summer end without helping your child beat the Summer Slide. There is still plenty of time to prepare for the coming school year.

The Summer Slide refers to how over the summer months young people lose academic skills and progress gained over the school year. The Summer Slide particularly affects children of low-income families. During the summer, low-income students lose on average more than two months of reading achievement. By the end of fifth grade, low-income children are nearly three grade equivalents behind their higher-income peers in reading.

So, what can be done to defy these statistics and be prepared for the coming school year? Take a trip to the library and take out a number of books you can read together. Find books covering a range of topics from fiction to nonfiction. Spend at least 20 minutes a day reading these books together. It can be before bed, in the morning, during lunch or while in the waiting room of a doctor or dentist. Why not spend a summer afternoon reading outside in the shade of a tree?

Reading doesn’t have to be from a book. During breakfast you can read the back of a cereal box together. You can even use this time to discuss the nutritional information and talk about healthy eating. While you are driving you can read road signs. You can go over shapes and colors of the signs with younger children as well.

summer slide blog (books)    The summer is a great time to get children outside and active. You can create reading games, such as a vocabulary scavenger hunt. Label items throughout your yard or hide certain words in the trees and bushes. Have you child run about finding all the words and then use them to create sentences and stories. They are active and learning at the same time!

It doesn’t take much time to help your child to be prepared to start school. Reading with them for at least 20 minutes a day is a simple way to help fight the Summer Slide.


Meet Juan M. and Tyeishia L.; Two Lives Transformed by the Parma Adult Education Program

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.

This week’s guest blog post comes from Nanette Penny, Communication Specialist, Adult Education Services, Parma City School District.

For more than 50 years the Parma City School District’s Adult Education Program has been dedicated to helping adult students achieve their literacy and educational goals. What began as a small program in the Parma area has blossomed into an expansive literacy powerhouse across the Greater Cleveland area. With over 30 different sites holding classes that specialize in Adult Basic Education, GED© Preparation, Workforce Training, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), English Languages/Civics Education, TOFEL Test Preparation, US Citizenship Test Preparation and College Success Workshops, Parma Adult Education has impacted the lives of thousands of Cuyahoga County residents.

Parma Adult Education students are transforming their lives through education. They are learning new skills, achieving objectives, and impacting the world. Read on for stories of real students who have succeeded in the Parma Adult Education program.

Juan M.

Parma Adult Ed stories- JuanJuan is a 58-year-old veteran who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Chicago. To escape the poverty and violence around him, he joined the army at the age of seventeen and served in Panama where he was trained as a Combat Medic. After an honorable discharge, Juan returned to Chicago and embarked on a music career. He always had a talent for music, and he played as a percussionist with bands in the Latin night clubs. Although his music career was very successful, Juan became too involved with the darker aspects of night life and developed an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After struggling for many years, Juan joined a church support group that helped him overcome his addictions. He played music for the church, got a job as a CNC programmer in a factory, and got married. Several years later, however, everything fell apart. He got a divorce and relapsed into drug use. He overdosed on the street and was transported to the hospital by the police in the city where he now lives – Cleveland, Ohio. He was then transferred to the Matt Talbot Inn, a rehab facility, where he completed a 60-day recovery program.

While Juan was a client at the Matt Talbot Inn, counselors saw something special in him. They told him that if he stayed sober and got his GED, they would hire him as a mentor to younger residents at the facility. In March of 2016 Juan officially passed his GED test! He has begun working as a third shift attendant at the Matt Talbot Inn and has already spoken with a representative from Cuyahoga Community College about enrolling in a Chemical Dependence certificate program. He has a deep desire to give back to his community and is grateful for every opportunity to do so.

Tyeishia L.

Parma Adult Ed stories- TyeishaTyeishia, 24 years old with a two year old daughter, had lived in her car or slept on a mattress at a different home every night for more than a year because she had no money for a place of her own. She felt hopeless, stuck earning $8 an hour at a local photo shop and barely paying her bills. Unfortunately, Tyeishia lacked the skills or experience to change the pattern of living paycheck to paycheck.

But then she heard about NewBridge. Finding out about this opportunity “saved my life,” she said, adding that the fact our courses are free meant she could move toward a career without going into debt.

But her challenges did not end there. Tyeishia had trouble passing the basic skills test needed to become a student. But NewBridge made sure that she had the help she needed to overcome this obstacle. Using our free tutoring and refresher training, Tyeishia finally passed the test.

She made it clear, during the interview process, that NewBridge was a lifeline for her. “My life depends on this,” she said, as she could not support herself and her daughter on minimum wage jobs. “I need a career and I need it now.” Unfortunately, even after acceptance into the program, she still faced other obstacles. Even though NewBridge is free, she still needed to work to pay her bills and support her daughter. But doing so, as well as taking classes and taking care of her toddler, left her exhausted. According to Tyeishia, she was so tired that she had trouble staying awake during class.

But that’s where NewBridge’s supportive, nurturing environment came into play as her classmates and teacher provided her with the support she needed to make it through to graduation. “We were a family. We all loved each other, looked out for each other, including bringing food when others didn’t have it,” Tyeishia says. Also, her teacher brought her free bus passes when her car broke down so that she could get to and from class.

Tyeishia learned not only how to be a phlebotomist, but also how to be a professional, using the technical skills and workplace skills that NewBridge makes a central part of our program. Her skills only increased during the externship that NewBridge provides as part of an agreement with University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and MetroHealth. “I became one with the needle,” Tyeishia joked. This training and experience put her in demand and she just landed a job with the Cleveland Clinic.

Now, not only does Tyeishia have her own apartment, but she has the time to be a much greater part of her daughter’s life. Beforehand she only had the time to feed her daughter and put her to bed each night, but that’s no longer the case.

NewBridge changed her entire perspective, Tyeishia said. After our program, “I felt like I was going to be okay,” Tyeishia said, adding “I wasn’t drowning anymore.”

To learn more about Parma Adult Education Services head over to their website, www.parmacityschools.org/Adulted.

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

May 26th, 2016 PechaKucha Event: An Evening of Learning About the Great Literacy Programs In and Around Cleveland

On Thursday, May 26th, 2016, The Literacy Cooperative in collaboration with the Cleveland Bridge Builders, Class of 2016, coordinated a PechaKucha event. PechaKucha means chit chat in Japanese and is an event where presenters present 20 slides, each for 20 seconds, on a chosen topic.

The topic for our PechaKucha event was, “Helping to Improve Awareness and Literacy Education in Northeast Ohio.” There were seven presenters from eight different organizations around Cleveland who presented on their literacy based programs that combine literature, learning, and literacy with other fun activities. Presenters included: our Executive Director Bob Paponetti, who spoke about the history of The Literacy Cooperative and the work that we do, as well as, Elizabeth Geisse from America SCORES Cleveland, Pam Jankowski with Cuyahoga County Library in partnership with Parma City School District, Debi Abela from University Circle Incorporated, Mahogani Graves with Reach Out and Read/ Ready to Learn at MetroHealth, Daniel Hahn from Playhouse Square and Judi Kovach with Kids Book Bank.

The event was a great way to inform the community about programs and initiatives that incorporate literacy in unique ways that help both children and their families learn. The PechaKucha format provided a way to explore a number of different programs in one evening, giving the community a broad look at all the great work that is being done around our city to advance literacy.

Or click on the video below to watch the full event.


Want to learn more about the programs and organizations that participated? Check out some of our guest posts here on our blog. Or follow each of the organizations on their social media pages:


University Circle- Twitter and Facebook

America SCORES Cleveland- Twitter and Facebook

Reach Out and Read/ Ready to Learn at MetroHealth – Twitter and Facebook

Playhouse Square – Twitter and Facebook

Cuyahoga County Public Library – Twitter and Facebook 

Kids Book Bank – Twitter and Facebook

Parma City School District – Twitter and Facebook

The Literacy Cooperative – Twitter and Facebook 






The Children’s Museum of Cleveland – Committed to Creating Lifelong Readers

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.

This week’s guest blog post comes from The Children’s Museum of Cleveland written by Kelsey Tarase, Museum Educator.

Children's Museum - Future home

The future home of The Children’s Museum of Cleveland at 3813 Euclid Avenue

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland was established in 1981 by a coalition of parents, educators and civic leaders who were passionate about the education of young children and the whole family role in the education of those children. Over the past two decades, the Museum has evolved from merely providing outreach programs and one traveling exhibit, to being known as the only cultural and educational resource completely dedicated to young children in the Cleveland area. In the last ten years the Museum has welcomed an average of 100,000 visitors annually and is the only museum in Northeast Ohio that is devoted exclusively to children ages birth to 8 years old.

As we celebrate our success of the last decade we look towards to the next decade and the process of rebirth. In December 2014, the Museum purchased the historic Stager Beckwith mansion in the Midtown neighborhood of Cleveland for its first permanent home in its history. Due to its lease not being renewed, the Museum closed its University Circle facility on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016 and began to serve the community through a dynamic series of programs held throughout Northeast Ohio. These programs will continue until the renovation in Midtown is complete and the Museum is ready to open its new home to visitors.

Children's Museum - Hooked on Books

A Children’s Museum Educator leads “Hooked on Books” at our former University Circle Location

The Children’s Museum of Cleveland staff has embraced this transitional period as a chance to go back to grassroots efforts in engaging families within their own communities and promote learning through play. As The Children’s Museum staff ventures out across Northeast Ohio, we have found that the great connector among all people is a story. Stories are a great equalizer among families; when we start a lesson families may come from different educational, socio-economic, and cultural backgrounds, but by starting a lesson with a story we are creating an equalizer; we are allowing all participants to share in the experience given in that story. As the recently popular young adult author John Green states, “Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.” Stories, such as the ones Green alludes to, have the power to create a level playing field and a mutual connection that can only be achieved upon sharing that experience.

Leveling the playing field and creating this mutual connection among families, through literacy programs is more important than ever. As a 2014 study by the U.S. Department of Education shows, only 20% of fourth-grade students from low-income communities read proficiently while 51% of fourth graders from higher income families read proficiently. This statistic shows that overcoming economic barriers is a critical point in equalizing the literacy proficiency discrepancies between families with different socio-economic backgrounds. Education standards being set now, such as those in the Third-Grade Guarantee, combined with the research on the importance of early childhood literacy and its impact on the individual’s literacy throughout their lifetime, has demonstrated that engaging parents and young children is critical in the creation of lifelong readers.

Children's Museum Renderings

Renderings of exhibit plans for the future home of The Children’s Museum of Cleveland

As The Children’s Museum staff commits to creating lifelong readers and engages with young children across Northeast Ohio, we teach lessons on phonemic awareness, site words, and reading comprehension. Through these lessons we are not only trying to pass on a bit of information to the child, but also engage the whole family in creating a meaningful experience that will open the doors for them to seek out literacy programs. The children’s author Emilie Buchwald said it best “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” The Children’s Museum of Cleveland has always been committed to the fact that the parent is a child’s first teacher. If we as a Museum can engage caregivers so that they view literacy positively and promote reading, then their children are more likely to become children who love to read. These children are better able to explore words and concepts and use language as a tool to guide their understanding of the world. As The Children’s Museum of Cleveland plans its’ exhibit space for its’ future home at the Stager Beckwith mansion, staff continually questions where there can be more spaces for parents and children to gather to share both oral and written stories – to communicate, learn and play with other Ohio families as they all connect together as one community, grounded in learning through play.

Ten years from now we see The Children’s Museum of Cleveland being a resource for families in Northeast Ohio and a center for learning through play. We see it as a great equalizer where all families can come to learn, grow, explore, read, and play together regardless of socio-economic, physical, cultural, and other barriers. We see it as a place where caregivers from across Northeast Ohio can bring their child and share stories of their childhood, their culture, and their experience with other families, and also create new stories together. As the Children’s Museum plans this museum for all Northeast Ohio families we want to know: what are the meaningful books you read as a child? What are the stories that have shaped your view of the world? What are the stories that The Children’s Museum of Cleveland must tell that will connect with families to create the next generation of storytellers?

Learn More about The Children’s Museum on their website: http://www.clevelandchildrensmuseum.org/.

Be sure to follow them on Twitter and Facebook.