The Need to Read

Students from East Broad Street School visited Armstrong Atlantic State University on April 24, 2012 to celebrate the year-end close of Teens for Literacy, a literacy program for inner city children coordinated by the Armstrong College of Education.

Teens for Literacy is a partnership between East Broad and Armstrong that empowers East Broad's student leaders to strategize and develop novel ideas to inspire their fellow students to read.

The partnership is the brainchild of Armstrong professor emeritus Allen Berger, who originated Teens for Literacy while serving as the Heckert Professor of Reading and Writing at Miami University in Ohio. At Armstrong, he teamed up with assistant professor Jaime Berry and East Broad counselor Amber Swain to bring the project to Savannah. Teens for Literacy is funded through a SPARC II grant as part of Armstrong's strategic goals and mission.

“We are so thankful to Armstrong,” said Swain. “The children have gained so much from this program and are more excited to read than I've ever seen them. This has been a great experience for them and for me as well.”

Over the last semester, Armstrong student volunteers taught the East Broad reading ambassadors how to be good mentors to younger students. The ambassadors took the inspiration and implemented several reading campaigns at their school. They created a living museum of basketball players, wrote a rap song, produced a video and read aloud to younger students.

The students' hard work culminated with the trip to Armstrong. During their visit, the East Broad ambassadors had the chance to talk with three Pirate athletes about the significance of education and literacy.

Eric Fowler, a baseball player from Chattanooga, Tenn., chose to stay home and speak to the kids while his team traveled to an away game. He used the moment to emphasize that missing a ball game is worthy of the chance to explain the importance of reading and good grades.

“Good habits on the field will make for good habits off the field, and it goes vice versa,” he told the class. “Hard work pays off in the end.”

Soccer star Kelli Bahr also spoke to the students. Bahr played for the Pirates for five years and was recently nominated by the school as a NCAA Woman of the Year candidate.

“Without good grades,” said the student-athlete standout, “I would not have been nominated for this honor.”

Women's basketball player Jazmin Walker, who was delighted to find most of the students had a preference for shooting hoops, gave practical advice based on her own experiences as a student-athlete.

Walker was benched last season due to a knee injury, dashing her hopes of going pro after college. She'll now rely on her criminal justice degree instead of her athleticism after graduation.

“Don't put all of your eggs into one basket,” she advised. “You want to have options. You want to make sure you have some sort of backup plan, and good grades help make that happen.”

The East Broad students also toured campus, spoke with an admissions representative, visited a college class and met Dean of the College of Education Patricia Waccholz.

“We were thrilled to celebrate all the hard work the students at East Broad and our volunteers put into the program this semester. I feel like everyone involved with Teens for Literacy truly made a difference at East Broad,” Berry said.

Although Teens for Literacy has ended for this school year, the promotion of literacy at East Broad will continue. At the closing celebration, Teens for Literacy and Usborne Books donated $2,000 worth of books to East Broad Street School.

The reading ambassadors each received a book for their efforts in the program, and the rest of the collection was dedicated to East Broad's library. Many of the students, while browsing through the piles of picture books and small novels, were already choosing texts to read aloud to East Broad's younger students.

“The kids had a great time and worked so hard this semester,“ said Berger. “We are very grateful for the SPARC grant that allowed us to make this happen and to Usborne Books for their contribution to the book donations. I think this year has been a tremendous success for the program.”