Stephanie Harmon Diamond Miles
In November, Stephanie Harmon and Diamond Miles were selected to represent the Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative as part of a new initiative launched by the National Center for Families Learning (NCLF). Activate: National Early Childhood Advocacy Network is bringing together teams of parents and early childhood practitioners from 10 communities throughout the country to reimagine and reform equitable systems for families. Stephanie and Diamond travelled to Dallas for the program kick-off and returned full of energy, ideas and connections. They will each be a part of a national cohort of other parents and practitioners that are working on the same focus area and will also meet monthly with NCFL and Read Muskegon staff for support. Diamond will be participating in a group looking at the connections between mental and physical health as related to early literacy and childhood racial inequities. Stephanie’s group will be focused on the school to prison pipeline. We are so thankful to both of these women for stepping up to take on this work and excited to support them in their efforts.
For the last five years, Read Muskegon’s ABCs of Cooking class has been providing parents a fun, easy and delicious way to incorporate early literacy skill building into daily life with their 0-5 year olds. With the goal of helping to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to learn, families in this class learn letter shapes and sounds as they create toddler-friendly recipes. Based on the success of this program, Read Muskegon is expanding the concept to include two new classes for 2022. The ABCs of Art will help parents learn how to build early literacy skills through simple art projects. The ABCs of Song and Sounds will be for those families who have completed the cooking or art class and will use music to dig deeper into foundational literacy skills. Classes will be offered at various venues throughout Muskegon County beginning in February. Look for a calendar and registration information coming soon.
Thank you to the Great Start Collaborative and United Way of the Lakeshore for making these classes possible.
Beginning in early 2022, Read Muskegon, in partnership with the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), will bring the researched-based Family Service Learning program to Muskegon Heights. This program is a national model focused on project based learning through community-led service. It has been shown to engage families in building content knowledge, work-based skills, leadership skills, and in increasing self-efficacy and social networks. After piloting the program for 8 weeks with 10 families in Muskegon Heights, Read Muskegon hopes to expand to a year round program offered throughout Muskegon County.
Thank you to the Community Foundation for Muskegon County for their support in bringing this innovative literacy program to our community.
We’re the leading organization working to combat generational illiteracy in Muskegon County — but we can’t do it alone.
That’s why we’re thrilled to recognize our 2021 Community Partners, who have stepped up to combat generational illiteracy in Muskegon County. Because when we invest in literacy, we invest in our business’ and community’s future.
Muskegon County has struggled with low literacy rates for students and adults for decades. Ultimately, this not only impacts our education outcomes, but our economy as a whole.
The businesses that have chosen to be a part of Read Muskegon’s Community Partners program understand that they are investing in the long-term wellbeing of our people, our communities and our businesses. We are so grateful for their commitment to our mission.
Melissa Moore, Executive Director
Our community does not have a talent shortage – it has an opportunity shortage. Together, we’re creating access to opportunity so all residents can find their path to success. Thank you to our 2021 partners:
Webb Chemical Services Corporation
The Mart Dock
West Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council
Learn more about our Community Partners program.
On February 23rd, over 100 community members joined together to focus their collective wisdom, creative problem-solving skills, and resources to tackle the literacy crisis that exists in Muskegon County. Here’s a brief recap of the event and an opportunity to get involved.
Melissa Moore, Read Muskegon’s Executive Director, started by sharing some statistics to create a vision of the literacy landscape in Muskegon County. “Illiteracy is one of the most complex, interconnected, and deeply-rooted issues we face as a nation, ” Moore said. “It’s an issue of social justice, because those who cannot read cannot equally participate in our society.” She challenged attendees to be “disrupters” in the generational cycle of illiteracy.
Sharon Darling, founder and CEO of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL), applauded Muskegon County for their collaborative efforts to tackle illiteracy and said she would like to see it become a model for the nation. She called literacy the stem of the flower whose petals are issues like welfare, health care, and criminal justice reform that rely on the strong base of literacy to keep blooming. She noted that while our country’s literacy statistics have been going backwards, we know what to do and the time is now to start doing it.
Poppy Sias-Hernandez, Equity & Inclusion Officer for Governor Whitmer, remarked that equity is the outcome of diversity and inclusion and that we need to continue our efforts to create equitable education and other systems that support everyone. She said that equity happens through collective efforts, when people bring their grit, talent and resources to the creation of solutions.
Rosa Guzman-Snyder, Director of Community Development for NCFL, presented a timeline of the work that has been done by the literacy collaborative and the vision for moving forward. She set the stage for attendees to participate in breakout room conversations focused on 3 areas as they relate to tackling illiteracy: Economic Opportunity & Workforce Development: coordination of adult learning opportunities leading to family-sustaining wages, Education: mobilizing as a community to support our schools and ensure families have what they need to help their children succeed, and Neighborhoods & Community Leadership: utilizing existing networks to bridge the gap between needs and services. Input from the breakout sessions will be used by the collaborative work groups to create short and long-term action plans.
It’s going to take all of us working together to create real, sustainable change. Click the link below to sign up for a Read Muskegon Literacy Collaborative work group or to share a “Big Idea”.
When COVID first began causing closures and cancellations of in-person activities, Read Muskegon was committed that no reader be left behind in the transition to virtual learning — including those in the Muskegon County Jail.
In March, all access to the jail was abruptly discontinued. The challenges were compounded because the jail had no secure system to provide access to virtual learning for the incarcerated men and women. Estimates were that in person teaching would not resume until the Fall of 2021 at the earliest. Read Muskegon remained steadfast — no reader left behind.
“In 2019, Read Muskegon served about 150 incarcerated men and women,” said Melissa Moore, executive director.
“Because of the strong link between illiteracy and incarceration, this is some of the most important work that we do. By providing functional literacy skills to incarcerated individuals, we’re helping them be better prepared to navigate daily life in a positive way when they re-enter our community.”
Thanks to the leadership of Mediation & Restorative Services and the willingness of the jail administration to look for solutions, we’re proud to say that by early December we will have fulfilled our promise of no reader left behind. There are currently over 50 individuals on the waitlist for virtual literacy classes, and we’re eager to serve them this winter.
“As a partner in the EXIT program, we’re actively working to install the jail’s first-ever virtual learning equipment, which will allow us to resume twice-weekly classes,” said Moore. “We will be one of the first programs in the state to have this type of virtual access for program delivery.”
By expanding our virtual learning, we’ll help more men and women increase their functional literacy skills. Upon their release from jail, they’ll have the confidence and skills they need to read job postings, fill out job applications, pay bills, lease apartments, manage their finances and access health care. These types of literacy skills are key to preventing recidivism into the criminal justice system.
This holiday season, you can make sure no reader is left behind. Your generosity supports innovation and collaboration that connects more individuals with life-changing literacy skills. You can donate today at www.readmuskegon.org/donate