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Grant Boosts Covington Literacy Program in Multiple Ways, Languages

A grant to support literacy programs in Covington is bearing fruit, city officials said.

An $8,000 grant from AT&T in June awarded to the Fund for Covington in support of Read Ready Covington, was part of a local initiative that aligns with the telecommunications giant's commitment to advance education, according to Holland Spade, who works in AT&T's external affairs.

“AT&T believes we can all play a part in helping our neighbors and our communities come through these challenging times, and the summer learning programs provided by The Fund for Covington are the type of efforts needed to help our young people succeed,” Spade explained.

Read Ready Covington is a city program designed to encourage reading among the youngest population. Over the summer, the program spread children's stories through a pop-up project called StoryWalk.

The grant also supported Esperanza Latino Center on Pike Street which is helping Spanish-speaking parents study for the GED.

For Read Ready Covington’s director, MaryKay Connolly, seeing the programs come to life this summer with AT&T’s help become exponentially more exciting when she paused to think about the long-term impact of those programs.

“It’s stunning what one gift can accomplish,” she said.

Read Ready Covington applied a portion of the grant to its StoryWalk® project. The project is an educational activity that physically deconstructs and laminates a children’s book and places its pages in popular locations throughout a community.

The project promotes outdoor physical activity, builds interest in reading, and sparks the imagination through story-related activities. It was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, Vt., in 2007.

Over the summer, Read Ready Covington placed StoryWalk “books” at eight locations, and, with help from Covington Parks & Recreation, rotated the installations every three to four weeks.

“AT&T funded the ability to expand StoryWalk through many neighborhoods that we connected to playful learning experiences for children and their families,” Connolly said.

For example, at Randolph and Goebel swimming pools and the Latonia Water Park/Splash Pad, children discovered stories like Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, a story about a young boy who works up the courage to jump off the diving board.

At Ninth District Elementary in Latonia, students enjoyed Roseanne Greenfield Thong’s Green is a Chili Pepper, A Book of Colors, which celebrates Latino culture while connecting to the school’s garden.

And at the Notre Dame Urban Education Center, kids read Lois Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet while simultaneously sowing and maintaining a “STEM garden” (so-called because of its connection to science, technology, engineering, and math lessons).

At the center – an afterschool tutoring program for kids K-12 on East Eighth Street – the StoryWalk led to related learning: The grant made it possible to create actual gardens, planting pollinators like black-eyed Susans and milkweed and vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes. Students learned about plant life cycles and the integral role that pollinators such as bees and butterflies play in the food chain and in eco-diversity.

The partnership between RRC and Esperanza will ultimately benefit entire families, city officials said.

Twenty-one percent of Covington public schoolchildren identify as Hispanic. Parents generally want to be involved in their child’s education, but sometimes their own educational background limits the extent to which they can help.

And when those parents or guardians work to address those limitations by getting a GED, they often run into a problem: The GED is available in the Spanish language, but prep materials and instruction in Spanish are much more difficult if not impossible to obtain.

The AT&T grant will help fund the development of a GED-prep curriculum, buy teaching materials, and supply testing fees for up to 15 students. The plan also includes recruiting a bilingual person to teach the GED course in Spanish.

Meanwhile, as parents prepare for their GED, their children can use existing tablets and early literacy apps available through Read Ready Covington. The apps, Footsteps2Brilliance and Clever Kids University, have proved successful in preparing children with foundational reading, math, and science skills.

Families can register for the apps here.

“Clearly, the impact of the AT&T grant will impact multiple programs and foster a culture of learning within many families,” Connolly said.

-Staff report