The Literacy Center of West Michigan's Community Literacy Initiative (CLI) is winding down, but its collaborative work on literacy remains.
"Launched in 2011, CLI is a coalition of literacy providers who are working to align efforts to accelerate improvement of literacy levels in our community,” Mike Nassar, CLI’s director, shares. "The coalition was born out of the orginal work by Greater Grand Rapids Reads, led by former Mayor George Heartwell and Dr. Juan Olivarez."
Mike joined the Literacy Center as CLI's director in 2016 after spending his career as a teacher and principal in Grand Rapids Public Schools.
During Mike’s time as director, CLIspear-headed several literacy projects in our community that will leave a lasting impact long after CLI is done.
Mike shares, “In 2016, CLI reactivated the ‘policy/advocacy’ function within the program logic model. A new and diverse policy committee was formed that included executive directors from GRPS, Kent School Services Network, Kent District Library, and the Michigan Education Corps.” The committee’s focus on the new third grade reading legislation (PA 306) resulted in the funding of the program, “Partners in Reading Success (PIRS).”
Mike describes Partners in Reading Success: “Working in concert with Kent District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library and Kent ISD, CLI has facilitated the planning and execution of a county-wide program to equip all area librarians to support children and families in pursuit of grade level reading, especially for children with Individual Reading Improvement Plans (IRIPs).”
Another major focus the committee had was to connect local schools with libraries. “This pilot project has resulted in fundamental changes in how the libraries and schools are working together," Mike says.
Keith Caterino, Kelloggsville Public Schools’ K-12 Media Specialist, agrees. "The impact of this partnership has built the foundation of the library's importance in the community." He continues, “We've found ways to engage the community through outreach, book donations, and improved services. In addition, we've become keenly aware of how students in our district are in need of resources and we are working towards meeting those needs.”
CLI has played key role in the KConnect Literacy Landscape Leadership Team. CLI led the effortof gathering to gather data regarding adult practices related to early literacy development in young children. As a result, the “Early Literacy Landscape Crosswalk Tool” was developed with the support of multiple community partners and through the support of Lake Michigan Credit Union.
Mike shares the results, “It was hoped that the survey would elicit a goal of 100 respondents.” He continues, "We’re pleased that we received 169 caregiver responses were received, as well as 99 organizational responses. Additionally, nearly 30% of respondents identified Spanish as their home language, 19% of respondents identified as African American."
Currently, the data is being summarized and analyzed.
As CLI comes to a close this month, Mike recognizes why CLI the coalition has been able to accomplish what it has. “We kind of have a space, where we bring all these different organizations together. An individual can get very little done by his or herself so, I think, where we’ve gotten the work done is when we bring our partners together." He continues, “Building those teams, empowering those teams, that’s where most of our success has come from.”
Join us in thanking Mike Nassar for his leadership as the CLI director and in celebrating all that the program has accomplished in its 10 years.