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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

Session 1: 9:40- 10:25 AM

Courageous Literacy Teaching

Dr. Keisha Siriboe
ROX Institute for Research and Training

In this session, Dr. Siriboe will provide suggestions for creating a literacy environment where adults and children feel safe to expose their vulnerabilities and highlight learning opportunities when using culturally competent picture books. Participants will have the opportunity to think critically about the barriers families face when engaging in early childhood literacy, and share successful techniques they have used to support parents/caregivers as the first teachers. Dr. Siriboe will discuss read aloud strategies for developing critical thinking skills during early childhood with a special emphasis on parent-child reading aloud. Attendees will also experience engaging read aloud activity suggestions to reinforce literacy learning objectives, with time set aside for audience Q&A.

Advocating to Help Children Thrive

Jayme Vosovic
West Michigan Community Engagement Specialist
Michigan League for Public Policy

The Michigan League for Public Policy is a leader in the comprehensive analysis of poverty and the impact of state and federal budgets on residents with low incomes in Michigan. With a lens on racial equity and the use of data, this session will share the MLPP policy priorities that will support children’s success in school. Focus areas include resources for schools with the greatest disparities, creating a prenatal to third grade reading initiative, and increasing parental engagement and involvement. Finally, the session will include ideas on how the community can help advocate for policies that impact and improve the lives of children and families in Michigan.

Increasing the Odds for Literacy Success: Mobilizing Efforts Around What Matters Most

Chana Edmond-Verley
Camp Fire West Michigan 4C

Madonna Princer
Executive Director
Head Start for Kent County

Tomarra Richardson
Parent Liaison
Great Start Parent Coalition and Parent Coalition

Tequia Adams
Baby Scholars Supervisor
Spectrum Health

Abby D’Addario
Librarian/Early Literacy Specialist
KDL Wyoming Branch

Getting all kids ready to read requires a targeted community effort. How do we activate all “change agents” inclusive of parents/caregivers? How do we surface what matters most in early literacy success and make that common knowledge to all? How do we mobilize the entire community for mutually reinforcing action? This session will share “Success Basics: The Kent County Way,” a community weaving and collective impact effort to cultivate the power of families to influence early literacy success. Learn about integrating common messaging, evidenced-informed strategies, and ecological saturation. Understand the powerful benefits to children and families as systems players in the early childhood sector team up with parent leaders in this cross-sector change effort.

Playing Your Way to Literacy and School Readiness

Kathleen Neumann
Child Development Community Liaison
GRCC Early Childhood Learning Laboratory

Rebecca Keller
Early Learning Coach
GRCC Early Childhood Learning Laboratory

Parents and caregivers are a child’s first and best teacher—and playmate. This session will highlight the concept of “Play and Learn Groups” that are offered in eleven sites throughout the Grand Rapids community. These play based groups offer young children opportunities to engage in developmentally appropriate play activities that support literacy develop and school readiness. They also incorporate the Success Basics and align activities with the State of Michigan Early Childhood standards. Presenters will demonstrate a Play and Learn session and share activities that are easily replicated in the home with materials that families likely already have.

Unite for Literacy: A Movement to Bring Books to Young Children in Multiple Languages

Kathryn Ohle, Ph.D
Program Director, Early Childhood Education
Grand Valley State University

Research shows that homes with books that are used, enjoyed, and discussed are homes where children experience success in school and beyond. Research also validates the importance of providing books that are linguistically and culturally relevant to a child’s lived experience. This session will introduce participants to “Unite for Literacy,” a non-profit organization that provides hundreds of original books in 30 different languages through a free digital library. The books reinforce vocabulary and concepts that are traditionally addressed within the first five years of a child’s life. The presenter has first-hand experience using this program with native children in rural Alaska. Learn how families and children can engage with reading or listening to the text together.

Session 2: 10:40- 11:25 AM

Ensuring Excellence and Addressing Inequities in Early Childhood Education for Black Children

Iheoma U. Iruka, Ph.D.
Chief Research Innovation Officer and Director of the Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation, HighScope Educational Research Foundation

As early as 24 months, Black children, especially boys, are likely to show lower literacy skills compared to their White peers. Concentrated attention is beginning to focus on how early childhood programs and services can best be strengthened to be more effective for these children. However, early education programs cannot address the gender/race/income gap without attending to systematic inequities like discrimination and racism often seen in the different familial and social challenges experienced by young Black children, their families and their communities. In addition to providing data on risk indicators, this presentation will look at how early education programs can use Black children’s assets to support their development and learning and eventually excellence and life success.

A Deep Dive into Kent ISD’s Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) Results and the Implications for Early Literacy Development

Sunil Joy
Research Data Analyst
Kent ISD

Ashley Karsten
Director of Early Childhood
Kent ISD

Mark Raffler
Educational Consultant
Kent ISD

All public school districts are now required to administer the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) to incoming kindergarten students. The KRA is designed to measure a child's preparedness for kindergarten using a whole child approach, including academic, social, motor, and executive functional skills. Never before has there been a standardized, district-wide assessment to gauge the readiness of incoming kindergarten students. This session will provide an overview of the 2018-19 KRA results for public schools within Kent ISD. Participants will learn more about the assessment and its broader implications for student learning, with a specific focus on supporting early literacy development.

Family Engagement Strategies Across Language and Culture

Susan V. Piazza, Ph.D.
Professor of Literacy Studies
Western Michigan University

Selena Protacio, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Literacy Studies
Western Michigan University

Virginia David, Ph.D.
Faculty Specialist I, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Western Michigan University

Magda Tigchelaar, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
Western Michigan University

Building on the knowledge a child already possesses is educational best practice, therefore it is essential that educators engage with a child’s culture and community. Presenters will share current findings from an in-progress federally funded study titled Project English Learners and Teacher Education (ELATE), which supports in-service teachers in their efforts to increase family and community engagement, specifically targeting English learners. A “funds of knowledge framework” will be used to examine the importance of integrating learners’ lived experiences in the design of curriculum and instruction and school-based decisions. Participants will learn to apply the funds of knowledge framework as they think about designing action plans that will authentically engage family members/caregivers in their schools.

Reach Out and Read, a Prescription for Potential

Donna Lowry, MD
Ready for School

Jeran Culina
Education Research and Project Manager
Talent 2025

In Michigan, approximately 93% of children see a primary care provider at least once a year in the first five years of their lives, and most children participate in more than 10 well child visits (WCV) before they start school. This presentation will introduce the national Reach Out and Read (ROR) model, a program designed to provide children with free books during their WCVs. ROR is a cost-effective, evidence-based, and far-reaching program that engages health care providers in two-generation literacy strategy. Presenters will discuss the power of introducing a book into daily family routines, modeling simple early literacy tools, and affirming adult behaviors in promoting literacy rich homes.

Language Development through Play

Nanette Clatterbuck
Lake Michigan Academy

Sally Berry
Turning Pages Tutoring—The Grand Rapids Reading Institute

Early intervention is the best way to address children’s reading difficulties, but this intervention will not succeed unless it also addresses appropriate language development. This session will examine a hierarchy of language development as well as the five components of reading in an effort to explain why some children are slower to respond to interventions. Attendees will learn concrete activities that will strengthen language development and early reading skills including phonological awareness through play. Finally, this session will cover early warning signs exhibited by children who are predisposed to dyslexia and offer concrete recommendations for securing appropriate interventions and services.

Register for the Community Literacy Summit today! 

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