News & Blog: Community

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In August, the Literacy Center of West Michigan welcomed Dr. Yilin Wendland-Liu as the new director of the Adult Tutoring Program (ATP). In her role, she leads the founding program of the Literacy Center—one that is designed to connect community members who have a desire to improve their English and literary skills with volunteer tutors. The pairs work one-on-one to address the learner’s personal goals. 

Having been a college professor for several years, teaching Mandarin and Chinese literature, history, culture and, at times, East Asia  culture, Yilin understands the challenges and successes  adult learners face in learning a new language. Speaking of her experience with college students learning a second language, she says, “I think one of the most rewarding moments for me as a language teacher was seeing how some of the students came in with zero background in Chinese language, in Mandarin, and then towards the end of the year, being able to conduct a conversation, speak the language, engage in daily conversation, write simple compositions, and understand.”

Written by Libby Wahlstrom, Development Director, & Cynthia Salinas, Communication Coordinator & FLP Instructor

66362871 2404157849647336 2846880043785781248 nIn the summer of 2019, hundreds of families gathered each week in local parks for family-friendly literacy events. Special guests read stories aloud, local ice cream and food vendors gave away summer treats, and every child who attended received a brand new, age-appropriate book each week. By all accounts, Storytime in the Park was a huge success. 

The idea for Storytime in the Park came many years earlier from Barbara Lubic, a professor at Grand Valley State University. She and her friend Barbara Bush—a local ice cream shop owner—wanted to do something to celebrate the parks and the community in the summer. They decided to give away books and ice cream at weekly summer gatherings in Garfield Park. What began with 50 attendees 11 years ago has turned into something far greater. 

Written by Wendy Falb, Ph.D., Executive Director

95627669 10157382148127634 5095981286569279488 o copyAs summer draws to a close, the Literacy Center is in the midst of planning for our most unusual—and important—year of programming yet. Because we know that COVID-19 has only deepened the disparities caused by low literacy, we have pushed hard to innovate in this new environment so that we can not only sustain our support of adult literacy, but expand and improve how we meet this crucial need in our community. 

The Literacy Center is taking the following steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus:

  • The Literacy Center's office is closed at this time. All staff are working remotely and accessible via email. With general questions, contact info@literacycenterwm.org
  • Our Spellebration event originally planned for March 26, 2020 will be a virtual event held on June 4, 2020.  
  • Remote learning resources will be posted on social media and sent via email as they become available.

We will continue to keep our website and social media updated. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at info@literacycenterwm.org or via Facebook.

El Literacy Center ha tomado las siguientes medidas para limitar la propagación de COVID-19:

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The Community Literacy Summit will be held on Friday, Feb. 28 from 7:30 AM- 2:00 PM at the GVSU Eberhard Center in downtown Grand Rapids. The half day event will address the language and literacy development in young children ages birth to five, specifically those that lead to kindergarten readiness and grade level reading. Below are a listing of the 10 Summit breakouts offered during two sessions. Register for the event today

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Ready to Read, Ready to Succeed: Developing Literacy Birth to Five, will be held on Friday, February 28, 2020 from 7:30 am- 2:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit2020

The Literacy Center's staff and Summit planning committee spent many, many hours researching keynote speakers for our 2020 Summit. One name (well, more like one TEDx Talk) rose above the rest. Dr. Keisha Siriboe impressed everyone with her dynamic presentation style, and her depth of knowledge on early childhood literacy and parent-child reading aloud. 

The Literacy Center of West Michigan received the Governor’s Service Award for Outstanding National Service Program for its work in improving adult literacy through its Family Literacy program. The award was presented to the Literacy Center of West Michigan by Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission at a ceremony on Thursday, September 5 at the Detroit Opera House.  

Johana Rodriguez Quist Hired as Family Literacy Program Director

The Literacy Center of West Michigan is pleased to announce Johana Rodriguez Quist as the new director of its Family Literacy ProgramJohana Rodriguez Office Shot 2018, a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

“Our Family Literacy Program aligns parents’ education with what their children are learning in the classroom,” said Dr. Wendy Falb, executive director of the Literacy Center of West Michigan. “Johana’s experience supporting parents in the public schools gives her a deep understanding of the need for teaching parents the language skills necessary to break the generational cycle of low literacy.”

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One thing is clear from West Michigan business owners: the labor market is tight. With an unemployment rate of 4% as of January 2018, employers are actively searching for innovative ways to attract and retain talent. Irwin Seating Company, a Grand Rapids-based manufacturing company, was no exception. They had a number of temporary employees without GEDs or diplomas who had applied for permanent employment, but were unable to get past the interview stage due to their literacy barriers.

Connector, partner, bridge-builder, advocate. These are the words that everyone in town uses to describeJohn has led us to engage John Helmholdt, recipient of this year’s Ledy Award for Community Engagement.

For the last 10 years, John has used these skills in his role as the Executive Director for Communications and External Affairs at Grand Rapids Public Schools to build social capital and strengthen confidence in our city’s public school system. 

Guest blogger Fritz Crabb worked with Tony Campbell for many years at Heart of West Michigan United Way. In addition to being close friends, the two shared a passion for educating young people in this community. 

When Tony Campbell arrived at Heart of West Michigan United Way, he arrived with the resume, the personality, and theTony Spellebration intelligence to hit the ground running. And he did just that. Tony became a fixture in the non-profit community locally and throughout Michigan, finding ways to connect divergent groups and to get things done.

Jennifer Summers, Customized Workplace English Program Coordinator, writes about attending last month's TESOL International Convention

During the last week of March, several Literacy Center staff members and instructors attended the TESOL (Teaching TESOL 1 copyEnglish to Speakers of Other Language) 2018 International Convention in Chicago. There were over 6,500 attendees and some 1,000 educational sessions to choose from, so we were able to meet and learn from other English teaching professionals from around the world.

Mark Peters is the CEO of Butterball Farms, Inc. and the Chair of the Literacy Center's Donor Development committee

Mark PetersLiteracy. Why is it important?  Well, if you are reading this, you may actually take your literacy for granted.  But imagine for a moment that reading this was a matter of life and death. Maybe your own, or maybe that of a loved one. Imagine that this paragraph was the dosage instructions for one of your parent’s heart medicines, and you could not read it.  The reality is that 10-15% of the adult population in West Michigan would not be able understand this paragraph.

A brief introduction to our newest staff member, Queyonna Hunt

I’m Queyonna Hunt, the new Literacy Coordinator of the Adult Tutoring Program with the Literacy Center of West Michigan. I am writing to introduce myself, and will provide you with all the best tidbits so as not to bore you. So, let's start with a list of all the odd jobs I have had before becoming a Literacy Coordinator.Queyonna

The first job I ever had was a cashier position at Popeye's Chicken n' Biscuit; I was 16-years-old. At 21, I worked at a tattoo parlor with intimidating looking people with the softest hearts. Ink'd Up Tattoos was where I learned not to judge a person by the way they look. I sweated and toiled on a homestay farm in the U.P. and traveled to countless music festivals across the U.S. as a food vendor selling gourmet tacos.

Take a moment to explore the 10 breakout sessions offered at this year's Community Literacy Summit. Interested in attending this half-day event on January 25? Visit the Community Literacy Summit event page to register today. Space is limited and the event will sell out. 

 The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. Tickets are available at www.literacycenterwm.org/summit

Claudio SanchezWhile this may not be a familiar face, it’s likely a familiar voice to anyone who listens to public radio.

Claudio Sanchez, Education Correspondent for NPR, will be joining us as our keynote speaker at the Literacy Center of West Michigan’s Community Literacy Summit on January 25, 2018. The half day event, held at the Eberhard Center in Grand Rapids, will address the topic Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility. Mr. Sanchez’s keynote will provide a national context for the conversation about grade level reading proficiency.

 The Literacy Center's Eleventh Annual Wine & Words event will be hosted at 333 Fountain Street NE on Wednesday, November 8 from 6-9 pm. Purchase tickets online at www.literacycenterwm.org/wine-words

The lovely Italianate home, located at the corner of Fountain and Prospect in Grand Rapids' Heritage Hill district, House Photo 2was constructed in the 1876 by Norman D. Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was a partner in Carpenter, Judd & Company, a wholesale and retail dealership specializing in hardware and stoves. He resided in the home until the 1890s when he sold it and moved to Los Angeles.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar, M.Ed.
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Annual Community Literacy Summit, Reading by Third Grade: Our Shared Opportunity, Our Shared Responsibility, will be held on Thursday, January 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center.

There has been no shortage of debate about the State of Michigan’s recent law on third grade reading. Schools arechild reading currently working to get the word out to families about the law and its implications, while also preparing teachers for upcoming meetings with parents. Improving reading results for children in West Michigan is important to all of us.

This year’s Community Literacy Summit seeks to bring together community members to further discuss and understand the issues and conditions associated with a child reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Do you have something to contribute to the conversation? Our deadline has been extended to October 30 for presentation proposals for our break-out sessions.

Guest Post by Mike Nassar
Director, Community Literacy Initiative

The Literacy Center's Community Literacy Summit will be held on Thursday, Janunary 25, 2018 from 7:30 am- 1:00 pm at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. 

As many of us have heard by now, third grade reading is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. According to The Campaign for Grade Level Reading, approximately 67% of children nationwide are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. It jumps to 80% for children from families with low incomes. Locally, half of all students in Kent County are not reading proficiently by third grade. For students of color, that number rises to 74%.

These statistics have very real and very significant consequences not only for each of these children, but also for ourParent and child reading community. If left unchecked, these low levels of proficiency will undermine efforts to end intergenerational poverty, close the achievement gap, and reduce high school dropout rates. Far fewer of the next generation will be prepared to participate in higher education and in our growing local economy.

We are pleased to announce the hire of Miguelina Quiñones as the new director of our Family Literacy Program Miguelina Quinones(FLP), a program that strengthens the connection between home and school by addressing the literacy needs of adults in children’s lives.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Miguelina has been a classroom teacher and school administer for 20 years. She earned her B.A. from Herbert H. Lehman College and M.A. from College of New Rochelle, and is certified in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

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