"This is a great way for women leaders to get together." – Joann Randall
A local networking and leadership group — the United Way Services of Geauga County Women’s Leadership Council Æ said those items would benefit a national literacy project at Ledgemont Elementary School.
Resource and Volunteer Manager Joann Randall said the 40-woman group decided to help with the program, “One School, One Book,” after holding its June 12 meeting.
“We’re making a big push to increase the number of volunteers and focus on education,” Randall said.
The program involves volunteers, staff and teachers reading multiple copies of a single book aloud to students over a one-month period, said Ledgemont Schools Superintendent Julie Ramos, adding the district held the program last year for the first time.
“The program is a powerful way to systemically address and promote a culture of literacy throughout the entire school system,” Ramos said. “What’s nice is that these activities can be completed in conjunction with our normal daily school activities.”
But, for the $2,000 program to get off the ground at Ledgemont, it needed support from local organizations. Enter the women’s leadership council and the Geauga County Bar Association.
Randall said the women’s council has raised $890 of the goal as of June 26. In addition to cash donations, new and gently used books for grades kindergarten through 12th are being collected at donation bins located at the Geauga County Courthouse, Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan’s Cleveland office and the United Way office in Chardon.
Books will be collected through Aug. 19.
“The most important need is for tutors,” Randall said. “If we want all Geauga County third-graders to pass the new third-grade reading test, we’ll need the help of volunteers in the community.”
She said she is hoping to recruit 100 tutors for the 2014-15 school year to serve Ledgemont, Berkshire, Newbury, Cardinal and Kenston school districts.
Both the local and national councils have a goal to mobilize the power of women and advance the common good in communities, Randall said.
Nationally, the women’s council has more than 55,000 members in 143 communities. The national council began 10 years ago. It was based on a similar organization started in North Carolina in 2000.
In the past 12 years, the national council has raised more than $1 billion in 12 countries, according to the national council’s website.
“Research shows that a woman’s philanthropic motivation is based on having connection to a cause,” Randall said. “This is a great way for women leaders to get together.”
Mary Jane Trapp, a former appellate court judge, was a charter member of the Lake County Women’s Leadership Council, so she was familiar with the council’s mission.
“I live in the county and I thought it might be a great opportunity to serve United Way,” she said of joining the Geauga County council. “I’ve always been interested in education. I come from a long line of teachers, especially English teachers.”
Trapp, who also serves on the Geauga County Bar Association’s public relations committee, said her organization is service-based and is helping with the literary project.
“We’ve done a toys program at the holidays. We donate probably thousands of dollars in-kind monetary and in-kind donations, and we have worked with Geauga County Job and Family Services,” Trapp said.
The organization was looking for another service project to do when Trapp heard Ramos’s presentation. Problem solved. She took the idea back to Bar President Todd Petersen and everyone was enthusiastic about it.
“My personal chords were struck by the presentation,” she said. “We need to advance literacy and reading in this county. It was the perfect community service project.”
Ledgemont Elementary School Principal Sandy Smith said the program systematically addresses and promotes a culture of literacy in the school district.
“Reading to children for 15 minutes a day sounds simple, but the results are complex and permanent,” Smith said. “Extensive research has shown that if children hear words for two minutes daily, they will have heard 180,000 words a year, and with five minutes, that becomes over 350,000 words in a year.”
Young children can be read to at any age, even as infants, and will internalize the sounds of words as long as the duration of reading coincides with a child’s natural attention span, she added.
“Fifteen minutes a day is a small investment in time that yields substantial benefits for a lifetime,” the principal said, comparing the internalization of words and reading to a “401k vocabulary account.”
Reading aloud, as opposed to silently, has benefits such as sharpening the imagination, creating dialogue and motivating children to read. Acquisition of literary skills in turn provides a base of productivity, Smith added.
“When our entire school reads the same book, the buzz and excitement around the book increases these benefits,” Ramos said. “But there is added joy of building and expanding a sense of community among students, parents, teachers and staff at Ledgemont.”
Volunteers can sign up online at www.uwsgc.org. For more information, contact United Way at 440-285-2261.
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