Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Turning the Page #1

From 2001 to 2010, I had the honor of volunteering for an enriching New York City program called Authors Read Aloud (part of an organization called Learning Leaders). I was one of a group of authors who visited with students in underfunded New York City schools (mine were always in the Bronx).

Each author would meet with two classes per visit, four times a year; this setup allowed the authors and students to develop more of a personal ongoing relationship. This struck me as the genius of the program. It enabled more growth than a one-off presentation and gave everyone (including the authors) something to look forward to.

During the summer of 2010, I moved from Connecticut to Maryland. Authors Read Aloud doesn't (yet) exist in the Washington DC area. Sad as I was to say goodbye to that program, in my new environment I stumbled upon another program that may help fill that emotional gap.

On 11/4/10, I volunteered for the first time for a Washington DC program called Turning the Page.

It, too, sends volunteer authors to schools in lower-income neighborhoods, but beyond that, the structures diverge.

A Turning the Page author goes to schools after hours, as part of what they call community nights. After we eat dinner together, the author gives a short presentation for the kids—and their parents. Then the kids leave for mentoring while the author conducts a (fairly lengthy, as these things go) Q&A session with just the parents. The families get not only a free meal but also a free, signed book.

And therein lies the genius of this program.

Moms, dads, grandparents, and/or guardians who are actively interested in writing and reading send a powerful message to their kids. Motivated parents = motivated students.

Further, TTP buys a supply of the author's books in advance, and each child whose parent attends the event gets a signed copy at no charge. Before that, however, the books serve vital purpose:

On a side note, my book about Superman has given schools an easy way to promote positive attitude, though each school I've seen pounce on this has gone about it differently. To wit:

As of now, the only TTP-related stumper I'm grappling with is this: Parents who would take the time to attend a TTP event are probably already vested in their children's education. They may still benefit from what an author has to say, but they won't need convincing of the value of their presence there.

So besides food and fun and books, what else can we do to attract the parents who don't go?

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