What We Do
Our Goals and Projects
Learning to read is a complex process. For each child, there are many factors at play. So how do we approach our work? We recognize that schools are responsible for teaching children everyday, but we do not believe that they can succeed alone. The whole community can play a role ensuring that all children are successful.
In the process of developing our Community Solutions Action Plan, we isolated four goals through which we can grow great readers.
Our first and overarching goal is to increase the percentage of third graders who end the school year as proficient readers and, long-term, to ensure that all children are reading on grade level.
Our strategy for reaching this goal is multifaceted. Among other things, we seek to improve in-school and out-of-school supports, including tutoring for struggling readers, and, ultimately, open a comprehensive wrap-around center eliminating barriers to children's development and promoting school success.
Current efforts include: the Literacy Leaders program, which provides professional, research-based training to community- and school-based tutors serving through many different organizations; a Book Buddies program, currently in development, based on a proven model for early grades tutoring; and continued enhancements to existing literacy-focused programs participating in the coalition.
For more information or to support these efforts as a coalition partner or individual volunteer, contact Tamara Hillmer, Director of Early Childhood and Reading Development.
Our second goal is to maximize children's development from birth and ultimately to ensure that every child in our community arrives at kindergarten prepared to be successful in school and in life. Specifically, we seek to increase the percentage of entering kindergarten students who have achieved proficiency with the literacy components of the Mississippi Early Learning Standards for Classrooms Serving Four-Year-Old Children, as measured by STAR Early Literacy Assessment.
Our strategy for reaching this goal is co-led by the L.O.U. Excel by 5 Coalition and L.O.U. Reads. We are working to: build community awareness of the importance of the first five years of life; support parents and families in developing nuturing relationships with their children and promoting healthy development; enhance our local Family Resource Center; improve the quality of early care and education available to families in L.O.U.; and, in the long-term, increase acess to public pre-K.
Current efforts include: customized local implementation of the Read Aloud 15 Minutes campaign; a series of free, professionally-led Growing a Great Reader workshops for parents held at early care and education centers and public venues; and many projects of the LOU Excel by 5 Coalition, including but not limited to an annual conference for early care and education providers, positive parenting workshops facilitated by experts in the field, and a growing Family Resource Center that models and shares developmentally appropriate learning activities throughout the community.
For more information or to support these efforts as a coalition partner or individual volunteer, contact Kurt Brummett, Executive Director of United Way of Oxford & Lafayette County OR Tamara Hillmer, Director of Early Childhood and Reading Development.
Summer Learning and Out-of-School Time
Our third goal is to minimize and ultimately eliminate summer learning loss. The "summer slide" is a well-documented occurence in which students, particularly students with limited educational and enrichment opportunities, lose ground academically over the summer. In the short-term, our specific goal is to increase participation in quality out-of-school time programs -- many of which provide both after- and summer-school -- with an explicit focus on reaching disadvantaged children and youth.
Our strategy centers on: strengthening and expanding existing out-of-school time (OST) programs; coordinating OST programs throughout the L.O.U. community; engaging traditionally non-academic programs to promote literacy; and promoting public awareness and parental engagement.
Current efforts include: building a professional learning community of local OST providers through monthly coffee hours; developing and disseminating information for families on the many summer programs available in our community; launching a Summer Reading at Summer Feeding program; and continued enhancements to existing literacy-focused OST programs participating in the coalition.
For more information or to support these efforts as a coalition partner or individual volunteer, contact Sarah McLellan, Executive Director of the Lafayette County Literacy Council.
Our fourth goal is to increase the percentage of children in grades pre-kindergarten through third grade who are missing fewer than 10 days of school annually, with a focus on disadvantaged youth.
Our strategy for reaching this goal centers on establishing effective practices for combating truancy; building community awareness of the importance of daily school attendance; and encouraging students to want to come in to school every day.
Current efforts include: creating an incentive program for chronically absent students, including a reward scheme for students reaching their attendance goals; developing parent communication resources and making home visits to parents/guardians of chronically absent students; utilizing social media and traditional media channels to inform parents about school attendance.
For more information or to support these efforts as a coalition partner or individual volunteer, contact Allison Crain, School Attendance Officer at the Mississippi Department of Education.