Georgia Southern students partner with Wesley Community Center to encourage literacy
Georgia Southern University College of Education students on the Armstrong Campus in Savannah recently created family literacy projects to benefit the local Wesley Community Centers, which offer affordable services for families and children in need in Chatham County.
“Our focus was on ‘mathematizing’ children’s books by weaving together read-alouds, discussion, writing and mathematical concepts in order to creatively engage students and families in their learning,” explained Anne Katz, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations and Reading.
The research-based activities corresponded with a range of children’s books to benefit family literacy initiatives. In each project given to the Wesley Community Centers, students included a letter to the parents/caregivers, materials and instructions for the activity including step-by-step procedures. The idea was to prompt questions, content-area vocabulary connections and ideas for differentiation or extensions of the activity. Wesley Community Centers’ Executive Director Tammy Mixon-Calderon also visited the University to speak with students about the programs the Centers offer.
Katz invited students to participate in the project as a final assignment in her language acquisition course, for which education majors explore language components including phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics and pragmatics.
Kayla Wilharm, a junior early childhood education major, said she gained valuable knowledge for her future career with children and was proud to have helped the community.
“Reading to and with your child is so very important for the child’s language development, for creating a stronger bond within a parent-child relationship and for fostering a love for books,” she said. “I feel that this project helped me learn a lot about helping children and their families come together through books and learning, which is something that I plan to use in my future career, because reading and writing are very important and can often be therapeutic as well. It also gave me experience and the opportunity to have an impact on a child’s life and the community, which is something I am very passionate about.”
The Wesley Community Centers of Savannah, Inc. are urban-based community centers that work to enhance the economic, educational and spiritual growth through early learning care and services for women, children and families of Chatham County. The partnership, which began three years ago, Katz says, was a natural fit, as the Centers promote early literacy to its patrons.
“The university-community center partnership aims to bridge theory with practice for Georgia Southern students in the College of Education,” she said. “It simultaneously provides parents and caregivers with tools that will enable them to create high-quality early learning environments for their children. Providing parents with strategies and resources to design meaningful early learning experiences at home will prepare students to be active participants in language and literacy learning when they enter formal schooling, optimizing children’s academic and personal success.”
To complete the project, Katz had students in the course write reflection essays that considered how they can involve families in their future students’ literacy learning.
“As college students are developing their individual teacher literacy identities, this collaboration empowered teacher candidates to apply their content knowledge while building valuable connections with community members,” explained Katz.
Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/Research institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving more than 27,000 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction. A leader in higher education in southeast Georgia, the University provides a diverse student population with expert faculty, world-class scholarship and hands-on learning opportunities. Georgia Southern creates lifelong learners who serve as responsible scholars, leaders and stewards in their communities. Visit GeorgiaSouthern.edu.
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