In March, The Learning Alliance took steps to help children walk their way to literacy during the third annual SDIRC Moonshot Literacy Lane. The annual event supports the Moonshot Moment Literacy Movement’s goal of having 90 percent of Indian River County children reading on grade-level by third grade.
The walk promotes the importance of reading and spending time with family as they get some exercise and give their brains a workout.
“Our outdoor book walk – Moonshot Literacy Lane – celebrates family literacy,” said Marie O’Brien, TLA’s Manager of Digital Media and Moonshot Outreach.
The adventure began and ended at the Indian River County Main Library, where the first and last pages of the story were posted. Led by Deborah Dillon, Ret. Rosewood Elementary School Principal, the children along with their families, walked along 14th Avenue, stopping to read and discuss pages of the story, “Thank You, Omu,” by Oge Mora, about community support and the ensuing celebration where everyone comes together over a shared meal.
Thrilled to have the opportunity to share books and provide children with the opportunity to read, Dillons said, “Being an educator, you know that birth to five are the key years when a child develops the language and vocabulary. Exposure to books at an early age is key to making them better readers and, eventually, better citizens in our community.”
The project was made possible through a Moonshot partnership between The Learning Alliance, School District of Indian River County, the main library and the downtown Vero Beach business district. “We’re grateful to our local businesses for their Moonshot support of this fun learning experience,” said O’Brien.
Literacy Lane included 13 stops along historic downtown Vero Beach’s Main Street. The 3/4-mile walk included stops at Parisian Hostess, Cultural Council of Indian River County, Sean Ryan Pub, Joey’s Downtown Dapper Barbershop, Main Street Vero Beach, Island Images Professional Photography Studio, Tea and Chi, The Learning Alliance, Rourke Publishing, Edgewood Eatery, Heritage Center and Italian Kitchen.
At each site, poster-size pages from the story were on display along with discussion questions aimed toward improving the reader’s vocabulary, comprehension and critical thinking skills. This wasn’t a one-day event, according to O’Brien. The pages remained posted through April. Maps were available for download at moonshotmoment.org so that anyone could participate.
The group returned to the library to read the final pages of the book and then enjoyed Moon Pies and apple pies in honor of Pi Day, as they sat in the shade and discussed their literacy adventure.
Among the adults accompanying the children were The Learning Alliance’s Moonshot Reading Captains. This group of literacy heroes have volunteered to promote literacy within their communities. The innovative approach embeds these captains of literacy within the community. It provides them with books to share with the children that live nearby, thereby encouraging family engagement and modeling reading.
“Thirty-five years of educating students, working with parents, and the community has afforded me the wisdom to recognize a pivotal moment in Literacy through the Moonshot Reading Captain grassroots initiative,” said Margaret Ingram, Lead Moonshot Reading Captain.
By placing age-appropriate books into the hands of friends and neighbors already familiar with the community where these children live the Moonshot Reading Captain program removes the stigma of strangers invading their neighborhoods.
During these interactions, the Moonshot Reading Captains will provide literacy support along with connecting these families to other community resources as needed, including the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative, Healthy Start Coalition, and Treasure Coast Community Health.
“The idea of empowering trusted people in the neighborhood to serve as the go-to early literacy support person for families will help alleviate some of the stress in the home. Parents are willing to help their children but lack the resources to aid them in creating successful readers. Having books embedded in the community will ensure that the children will have appropriate grade-level reading books,” said Ingram.
Newly inducted Moonshot Reading Captain volunteer Candice Broom participated in the literacy walk along with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Jacobi. The vivacious little one already enjoys reading, shared Broom. “I can see it on her face, if I get a new book she’s ready. She wants to turn the page and point out different things in the book she recognizes. I think it’s really important to start early.”
“Someone can always go out and drop off books, but it doesn’t make it as personal. To engage with people, it’s a love that you can feel. That people care about you and your child’s well being. When you engage with people, it makes them feel loved, and that’s very important for growth,” added Broom.
“I believe this program will bring back kitchen table conversations whereby literacy will become the universal language. This model will serve as a new paradigm for early literacy in the community,” continued Ingram.
For information, visit thelearningalliance.org or moonshotmoment.org.