Rotary partnerships help early childhood literacy

From press and staff reports


Aiming to better prepare children for kindergarten, the Louisville Rotary Club is providing literacy assessments to local early care and education programs.

Working with an audience much younger than their usual lunch crowd, Rotary members worked with 3- and 4-year-olds at Winston County HeadStart Complex on the Between the Lions Preschool Literacy Initiative.

Through a partnership with the Headstart and Rotary dozens of children completed the Get Ready to Read Screening Tool conducted by local rotarians.

“We had the opportunity to sit with each child and guide them through the tool to measure their early literacy skills needed to become readers,” said Nola Bryant, literacy chair for the Rotary Club.

Research shows that reading skills develop in stages over years. Caregivers can provide children the fundamentals that produce future reading success by focusing on preliteracy activities such as reading aloud daily, practicing letter recognition and letter sounds, and singing nursery rhymes and songs.

Between the Lions is an award-winning PBS KIDS series that features a complementary curriculum promoting early word recognition and activities. Since 2007, Rotary Clubs throughout Mississippi have brought the Between the Lions curriculum, including pre- and post-assessment screenings, to childcare centers adopted in their districts.

More than just the preschoolers benefit from this program.

“The Between the Lions Literacy program allows Rotary to have an impact on the future of Winston County through the Head Start students,” said Bryant.

“Collaborative partnerships between the Rotary Club, and HeadStart enhances these young children,” she added.

After the pre-assessments, the Louisville Rotary club provided and has for several years provided classroom materials including teachers’ guides with weekly lessons, DVDs with a 10-15 minute Between the Lions video for each lesson, related books and additional classroom resources, such as alphabet strips, poem and song charts, magnetic alphabet letters and story figures.

Throughout the program, Rotary members visit the classrooms to read stories and interact with students.

“Reading for Between the Lions is a great opportunity to impact the lives of young children in our community. I really enjoy reading to the children,” Louisville Rotary member Joseph McCain said.

In about April, Rotarians will return to complete post-assessments to measure the program’s impact and prepare for the future years of the programs as the success builds.