March 17, 2011

SIUC assists high school student's literacy project

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale, community members and a national organization are supporting a project developed by high school student Kasey Mallette that will benefit children in an after-school program.

Mallette, a sophomore at Carbondale Community High School, volunteers a couple of days each week at the I Can Read after-school tutoring program held at the Eurma C. Hayes Center in Carbondale. As she pondered ways to strengthen the reading and writing skills of children who are currently struggling, she learned of a grant program and submitted an application. Her application was successful, and armed with a $487 National Education Association Youth Leaders for Literacy competitive grant from Youth Services of America, she is launching “Strengthening Our Community of Literacy Learners: Writing Poetry About Inspiring African American Community Members.”

A kick-off event is set for March 22 at the Eurma C. Hayes Center. Building on the tone set by the National Education Association’s Read Across America program, supporters of Mallette’s project, including faculty, staff and students from SIUC, will be reading to children. The kids will also learn about acrostic poetry and get the chance to write their own acrostic poems.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and news crews are welcome to cover the kick-off event from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on March 22 at the Eurma C. Hayes Center.

During the six-week project, inspirational African American community members will read their favorite books to the youngsters during I Can Read sessions. Project volunteers will assist children in gathering newspaper stories and other information about the guests and preparing interview questions.

The children will then interview the special guests and use the information they’ve gathered to write poems about the noteworthy African American community members. All participating children and community members as well as others will receive copies of the special book of poetry during a Global Youth Service Day celebration April 15 to wrap up the project.

The SIUC College of Education and Human Services and the curriculum and instruction department are assisting with the project through the in-kind donation of supplies and materials. Mallette estimates the total project cost at nearly $1,000.

Mythili Rundblad, coordinator of Student Development at SIUC, is serving as Mallette’s adult ally for the project. She said she sees “first-hand the positive effects that volunteers can bring in the lives of struggling children” and that in this era of economic problems and funding cuts, Mallette’s initiative “could not have come at a better time.”

Rundblad anticipates University students and student organizations will volunteer their time and energy to assist Mallette with the project. She said Mallette’s idea is creative and illustrates her passion for helping children reach their full potential.

“Her volunteer efforts and her dedication to literacy and reading efforts are very impressive for someone her age,” Rundblad said.

Kenneth Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, also wrote a letter of support for Mallette’s grant application for her project. He noted that COEHS partnered in establishing the I Can Read program to help struggling young readers and that students and faculty from the Teacher Education Program help with the tutoring. Their participation makes a significant difference for the young readers and provides a good learning experience for undergraduate and graduate SIUC students.

“The project Kasey is proposing has the potential to expand this partnership, further motivate struggling readers/writers, and advance the commitment by our University and the Carbondale community to enhance literacy for all learners,” Teitelbaum wrote.

Mallette said she believes “Strengthening Our Community of Literacy Learners: Writing Poetry About Inspiring African American Community Members” will help build the children’s literacy skills and enrich the community.