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.
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.
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.
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/.