Collaboration Pays Dividends!
Linda Placzek--MRC Treasurer
What does it take to engage high risk teen parents in literacy experiences for their babies and toddlers?
THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE: Give high risk teenage parents the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities which encourage developing literacy skill development with their babies and support them with instruction and materials and see what happens.
How did it happen?
A dedicated group of former educators and community members came together to design a literacy opportunity for high risk teenage moms. The project needs included the appropriate literacy training materials, an attractive, colorful and useful bag for materials which the moms could carry with them, and additional books for the moms to continue practicing these skills. Of course, these items required dollars and an agency to collaborate with.
Who were these former educators and community members bold enough to attempt this project?
Carolyn Law, former Westside Schools educator and Linda Placzek, former OPS educator and MRC Past President had the vision. They approached a community group, (of which both are members) the Omaha Golden K Kiwanis Club, which is dedicated to children, for support and funding. After sharing the idea, the two were given the go-ahead to apply for a grant from the Nebraska-Iowa District Kiwanis Foundation. After the grant was written and submitted, word came that the Foundation grant request was funded, but only partially. At that point the Club Officers and Board offered a contribution from the Club treasury and then members were asked to make individual contributions to address the shortfall. The Kiwanians came through! Within a few weeks, the necessary funding was in place.
The other need, a community agency to partner with, was filled by the Women’s Assure Center of Omaha, which serves at-risk teenage mothers. The agency was delighted to have this opportunity for their clients. The literacy training would become part of their education classes for these young clients and provided by their own staff. Carolyn Law provided training for the Assure staff.
With these needs filled, materials were ordered for training, additional books purchased, bags ordered for the moms, and in September, 2015, the program began.
Was it difficult to engage these young moms in literacy classes?
The answer is a happily resounding NO! The young moms have loved the opportunity to enhance their babies’ life experience with literacy activities. They have learned to read to their babies, sing nursery rhymes and have loved starting book collections for their little ones. Not only do the moms receive additional books as the classes continue, but they earn points by attending other Center classes to purchase additional books at the Assure Baby Store.
So what have we learned through this collaboration?
First, and more importantly, all parents understand that early literacy experiences are critical for their babies’ success.
Second, giving teenage or at-risk parents the instruction and most importantly, the tools, for early literacy experiences for their babies is a recipe for success.
Third, the need for this type of training has a place in our community.
Fourth, the collaboration of educators, community members, agencies and parents can make a difference in bringing literacy to infants and young children.
Fifth, community groups and members are willing to support this type of effort with time, talent and treasure.
So, stop for a moment to look around for possibilities to serve the needs of high risk children in your community and collaborate with others to make something special happen, too!
Addendum: We included in the materials for the parents, a copy of “Read to Me”, a brochure created by the Nebraska State Reading Association as well as a copy of the “Early Childhood Calendar”, which was created in collaboration of the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska State Reading Association, Read ALoud Nebraska, the Lincoln’s Children’s Museum and the University of Nebraska Extension Services. Collaboration Pays!