January 2021 - Lower Yukon School District
February 2021 - Southeast Island Consortium
March 2021 - Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
April 2021 - Nenana City School
Hello, fellow AKCLSD subgrantees. We are Nenana City School, a combined K-12 local and boarding school located in Nenana, Alaska. Part of our plan to improve literacy in our student body includes Literacy Cafes. Literacy Cafes are meant to be an opportunity for parents and guardians to learn more about the science behind reading, receive support in helping their students learn to read, and provide other parental support as necessary.
While Literacy Cafes were written into our grant application, the concept did not fully develop until a group of interested staff members came together and created a vision for how they were to be implemented. Our Literacy Cafes are meant to serve families in the Nenana area, including all K-6 students and their families in Nenana City School and CyberLynx homeschool families in the surrounding area. The original idea was to host a monthly meeting at the school, where children and their parents would come in and be treated to food and good conversation. With full bellies, the idea was to split the students and parents up for a bit, providing students with some hands-on social-emotional activities based on the Brightways Learning curriculum. While students were getting some wiggles out, the parents would be meeting for information about literacy skills, a guest speaker, or a combination of the two. Finally, the Cafe would end with parents and students coming back together to read a provided book, using a strategy or two the parents just learned about.
Doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend an evening? Unfortunately, a global pandemic had other plans for us. While we’d like to get to some semblance of our original plan, our Literacy Cafes have taken on quite a different form this year. We are still using the same group of books, a series from an outfit called Dynamic Resources, but our Smart Start plans have not allowed us to host anything in our building. Instead, we chose to have a semi-virtual approach. Families who have signed up for our “Virtual Literacy Cafe” are provided a package every month with books for each student in their family, a one-sheet printout of a reading strategy appropriate for a beginning reader and a more experienced reader, and materials for an arts and crafts project related to the theme of the included books. While the idea is to keep students off screens and encourage a literacy-oriented family event, we also create and publish a video that walks families through each strategy included and often includes why the reading strategies are important.
While our participation is high, particularly for students enrolled in our building, the reality is that this approach is certainly less effective than our original plans. Thankfully, implementing a Virtual Literacy Cafe has provided us many learning opportunities. We have built capacity in our district to implement in-person Literacy Cafes next year more effectively, and we have expanded our initial designs to potentially including preschool-aged children. We hope to host in-person Literacy Cafes for our K-6 students and their families, partner with our local Head Start, and extend our Cafes' reach as much as possible.
Our Literacy Cafe initiative has probably been the hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, our team has attempted to meet our goals by providing students and families with books, materials, and videos to support literacy at home. While we’ve been happy to provide a Virtual Literacy Cafe, we are looking forward to the days we can invite students and families into the building for some warm food, good conversation, and the support and time they need to connect through reading.
Thank you guys for reading. If you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve approached Literacy Cafes or any of the materials we’ve used, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.