This summer The Learning Alliance’s (TLA) Moonshot Reading Rocket blasted off on a 2,700-mile journey for Grade-Level Reading Week in Philadelphia, Pa. The Moonshot Moment Literacy Movement Rocket Return Reception celebrated the literacy pilgrimage at the Brackett Library on the Indian River State College (IRSC) Mueller Center Campus.
The week-long conference focused on accelerating learning and strengthening connections among the network of communities seeking to collaborate and replicate the efforts of community coalitions to support early learning, early literacy and early school success.
During the conference, The Learning Alliance was recognized for the “Voices: A Community Tapestry of Stories” arts-literacy project, The Moonshot Moment Annual Review Book, a video of the 2017 Moonshot Nation Road Trip, a Brightspot award for TLA's Moonshot Academy. The Learning Alliance accepted the CGLR Pacesetter Award on behalf of our Moonshot Moment Literacy Movement, honoring the work being done in our county to support children and early education.
As the Rocket made its way home, Moonshot Ambassadors Jay Krier, Bridget Lyons, Marie O'Brien and Barry Tatem made stops in Philadelphia, Pa.; Wilmington, Del.; Roanoke, Va.; Charlotte, N.C. and Savannah, Ga., spreading the word that schools can't do it alone. It takes the support of an entire community to achieve third-grade reading proficiency.
In an effort to connect in each of the communities the ambassadors invited those who crossed their path to participate in the “Voices: A Community Tapestry of Stories” project.
The project was inspired by the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, Kentucky’s 2015-2016 poet laureate. According to Lyons, “At each stop, we posed the questions: 'Where are you from?' 'What is your name?' and 'What are your dreams?' Participants designed their own panel to add to the more than 1,000 stories they've already collected for the interactive tapestry-making project.
“The goal is to line the reflection pond in Washington, D.C. at the Mall with tapestries on International Literacy Day in 2019,” explained O'Brien. “The team also collected interviews for 'Moonshot Nation,' a documentary that will also become a podcast and book to share the stories of other Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities.
O'Brien recalled the words of Annie E. Casey, “Literacy is the number one indicator of community prosperity.” Adding “And when you hear that and when you hear what we're doing, you can see that Indian River County is obviously going to be a very prosperous community.”
Notable Moonshot Community Action Network leaders were on hand to share their views on the Moonshot Moment Literacy Movement and why they support the work being done. Fran Adams, the mother of Moonshot Moment and retired School District of Indian River County superintendent, spoke of the growth of the movement from when co-founders Barbara Hammond and Liz Remington first approached her.
“I'm here to welcome back the Moonshot Rocket, a visible symbol of how we feel about early literacy and children reading on grade level,” noted Adams. “And to celebrate you as a community because I feel like we live in a community that supports children.”
Having been involved from the start and citing TLA's national recognition, Adams said, “This reminds me of Ralph Smith, the director of the National Grade Level for Reading. He's always telling us 'Literacy is not a spectator sport. You gotta get off the bleachers and onto the playing field.' Well, we not only got off the bleachers, but we've taken it on the road.”
As time passed, it became more and more apparent that to bolster literacy, TLA would need the support of the entire community. Casey Lunceford, Provost of IRSC Mueller Center, noted that early literacy affects post-secondary education. “It's critical to us because the stronger educationally the students come out of secondary schools, the more successful they will be in our classes.”
Susan Adams, IRC county commissioner, said, “High literacy rates are a good indication of successful and economically viable communities.” To further accentuate her point, she recounted the story of an employee who couldn't read and how his work with Literacy Services has enabled him to advance professionally, improving his economic standing and enabling him to read to his second-grader.
District 54 state representative, Erin Grall's focus, has been on early literacy and the importance of children having true quality interactions from birth to five so they will be ready for kindergarten. “We're bringing that message to the state and around the country, and I think that this community's commitment to it is outstanding.”
The Moonshot Moment Literacy Movement is a collaborative effort between TLA and the School District of Indian River County. School board member Tiffany Justice gave an overview of the programming made possible by TLA, including Moonshot Academy after-school programs, AmeriCorps volunteers, third-grade interventionists and K-2 Moonshot coaches.
“I was thinking about the Moonshot Moment and the journey of the bus (Moonshot Rocket) and what that means on this journey. They say a journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step. That's what the Moonshot Moment is to me, being willing to take that single step every day and invite people to come along with us,” said Justice.
Longtime literacy advocate, Judi Miller, Big Brothers Big Sisters CEO, credited TLA with bringing Indian River County nonprofits together and eliminating the silo mentality to focus on “one single critical goal: reading proficiency by third grade.”
Fifty years ago only two out of 10 kids needed to be highly literate to get a middle-class job and support a family of four. Today, nine out of 10 kids need those skills, according to Hammond as she hammers home the need for collaboration, “There's a whole different onus on our schools. They can't do it alone!”
About The Learning Alliance:
At The Learning Alliance, our work is predicated on the question – What does it take to achieve 90% literacy by third grade such that we create literate, compassionate, creative citizens who will improve our world? The Learning Alliance is a catalyst for innovation and collaboration supporting the Moonshot Moment 90% literacy transformative goal by arming front-line educators, parents, and community leaders with the tools, knowledge, and support necessary for success. Through innovative, evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning, we empower teachers to transform children’s lives. Through partnerships with the School District of Indian River County, Indian River State College, community leaders and civic youth organizations in our community, we hope to create local solutions that can serve as a model for the nation.
For more information about The Learning Alliance, please visit www.thelearningalliance.org or call 877-548-READ (7323).