News & Blog: Community


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. 

Break Out Sessions
Session 1: 9:40- 10:25 AM

Learning from Leading Education States

Amber Arellano, Executive Director, The Education Trust- Midwest

Mary Grech, Data and Policy Analyst, The Education Trust- Midwest

In October 2016, Michigan became the 37th state to adopt third grade reading legislation. The law requires that third grade children who score a grade level behind on the state’s English Language Arts assessment may be retained and not continue to fourth grade. This presentation will look at best practices for successful outcomes from other states. Presenters will also share research and data that demonstrate the most critical levers for early childhood outcomes in Michigan. Participants will gain an understanding of the challenges facing Michigan students as they strive to attain reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

The Sound Reading Framework: Development, Implementation and Evaluation of a Comprehensive Literacy Program

Wendy Miller, Reading Supervisor, Grand Valley State University Charter School Office

Angela O’Brien, Executive Communications & Community Initiatives Specialist, Autocam Medical

Andrea Smith, Professor, Early Childhood, Western Michigan University

The Sound Reading Framework (SRF) is a comprehensive literacy program for kindergarten through third grade students in three high-need urban schools. This presentation will share supporting research and processes used to develop the SRF program; implementation challenges and related modifications; and ongoing processes for assessing this project to better enhance work with students. Attendees will be introduced to programmatic data trends highlighting learning among elementary students as well as among participating teachers and SRF Student Assistants.

Tutoring for the Future: A Collaboration between GVSU College of Education TESOL and Cathedral of St. Andrew

Rui Niu-Cooper, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education/Director, ESL Program and TESOL Program at College of Education, Grand Valley State University

John Shinsky, Ph.D, Associate Dean of Community Engagement at College of Education, Grand Valley State University

Lisa McManus, A member of Circle of Friends at the Cathedral of St. Andrew

How do you prepare college students for active citizenship? How do you address the many factors that impact literacy development in refugee families? The English for the Future (EFF) program is working to address some of these questions by engaging college students in supporting the basic needs of refugee families. The program utilizes GVSU College of Education TESOL and School Leadership students to work alongside families at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Grand Rapids.

This panel presentation highlights the important leadership skills that students develop to help families secure food, shelter, medical, emotional, educational, and employment support. It is the expectation that GVSU students will be a valuable resource to families, which will ultimately create an environment that supports successful literacy development.

The Literacy Practices of Early Childhood Education: What the Kent ISD Great Start Readiness Program is doing to increase third grade reading proficiency

Jacqueline Billingsley, Early Childhood Specialist, Great Start Readiness Program, Kent ISD

Early childhood education is a critical component of children reading at grade level, and the Kent ISD Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) is at the forefront of collecting and analyzing data to address it locally. This presentation will show how the GSRP is using data to promote a variety of programs and supplements to strengthen kindergarten readiness and build solid foundational reading skills to support children throughout their educational career. Attendees will learn what the data says about early childhood kindergarten readiness in our community, and how evidenced-based practices are being implemented to strengthen the literacy skills of young children in West Michigan.

Our Local Libraries: Creative Programs for Getting Books into the Hands of Children

Jessica Anne Bratt, Youth Services Supervisor, Grand Rapids Public Library

Julie Ralston, Youth Librarian, Kent District Library

This presentation features two programs from our local library systems. Both programs are focused on the importance of getting books into the hands of children in our community.

1000 Books before Kindergarten, a program run by the Kent District Library and the Grand Rapids Public Library, is focused on promoting the reading of books prior to children starting kindergarten. Books on the Bus, a program through the Kent District Library, is designed to connect libraries with local school districts to provide bus riding students with high interest, high quality reading materials for their trips to and from school. Participants will learn how both programs are successfully connecting children with books to help develop their literacy and reading fluency at a young age.

Break Out Sessions
Session 2: 10:40- 11:25 AM

Working Together and Learning Together: K-12 and Higher Education Partnering for Literacy

Paula Lancaster, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Department Chair, Grand Valley State University

Joann Riemersma, Principal, Stocking Elementary, Grand Rapids Public Schools

This presentation begins with the premise that teachers with less than five years of experience will dominate the landscape of high poverty schools. As a result, beginning-level teachers must be well-prepared to provide skilled instruction and meet the demands of a diverse classroom on day one in order for students to meet proficiency levels.
Using a local example, the presenters will highlight the unique, multi-layered partnership established between Stocking Elementary School and Grand Valley State University. This partnership simultaneously addresses the preparation of beginner-level teachers and the literacy levels of the children attending a school characterized as “low-income” and “high-minority.” Attendees will learn about the layers of collaboration occurring in the school, the outcomes both entities are expecting to see, and aspirations for future work.

The Little Tutoring Program That Could: Essentials from a Successful Tutoring Program

Holly Windram, Ph.D., Executive Director, Michigan Education Corps at Hope Network

How did a “little” tutoring program that started in rural Minnesota scale to become the largest AmeriCorps tutoring program in the country, serving over 40,000 children in 13 states annually? This presentation by Hope Network’s Michigan Education Corps (MEC) will address how the Minnesota Reading Corps is being replicated in the state of Michigan with AmeriCorps members serving as full-time tutors in preschool classrooms and elementary school buildings. The members, many who do not have experience in education, are trained to deliver language and literacy interventions. Through the example of MEC, this presentation will describe key, empirically-supported elements used in training and coaching for successful literacy program implementation.

Understanding the Third Grade Reading Law and Its Impact on Schools and Students

Former State Representative Amanda Price

Chris Glass, Director of Legislative Affairs, West Michigan Talent Triangle

As a state representative, Amanda Price worked for four years to craft the third grade reading legislation that is now law. Former Representative Price and Mr. Glass, lobbyist and education policy analyst, will walk attendees through the intent behind the law and the components that will require additional early literacy structures and supports for schools and students. Their presentation will include a discussion of the requirements within the law and the results they hope to see for early literacy in our state. It will also address the issue of state school funding at it relates to third grade legislation, equity, urban learners and funding by need.

Addressing Two Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy for Vocabulary Development and Family Engagement

Shana E. Rochester, Ph.D. Candidate, Ford Foundation Pre-doctoral Fellow, University of Michigan

Crystal N. Wise, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan

Research shows that early interactions with vocabulary are key to children’s vocabulary development both inside and outside of school. This presentation will describe the findings of two research projects designed to develop children’s ability to understand new word meanings in different contexts and test the impact of a series of family literacy workshops for African American elementary school children. The presenters will share research-based strategies for selecting vocabulary words and teaching these words in meaningful contexts. The discussion will also include alternative approaches for engaging families that may be harder-to-reach. Attendees who work inside and outside of school settings will leave this presentation with information about practices that can support literacy learning for young children.

How Art Can Advance Literacy

Peter Markus, Senior Writer, InsideOut Literary Arts Project

Monique Salinas, Ph.D., Executive Director, Mind Meets Music

Christopher Bruce, Director of Learning and Creativity, Grand Rapids Art Museum

Moderated by Wendy V. Falb, Ph.D., Executive Director, Literacy Center of West Michigan

Most of the focus on how children achieve literacy proficiency is on instructional strategies. The role of content and the importance of relevancy is often overlooked. In this panel discussion, participants will learn how the power of the arts can be used in both method and content to advance children’s literacy. Participants will hear from the senior writer of InsideOut Literary Arts project in Detroit on his experience and approach to teaching poetry over two decades in Detroit Public Schools. Mind Meets Music, a nationally recognized Grand Rapids based program will share how they use music methodologies to engage the whole child to develop foundational skills in literacy. “Language Artists,” a partnership between Kendall College, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and area schools, will present on how they are using the visual arts to advance children’s literacy.

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