Tuesday, February 07, 2023

The Gift of Literacy:

by Donna Emert
| December 15, 2010 8:00 PM

COEUR d'ALENE - Literacy is a gift that keeps on giving.

Spreading a little Christmas joy and promoting literacy at an early age has motivated local teachers-in-training to purchased $1,100 worth of books for North Idaho children. The books will be distributed through the U.S. Marines' Toys for Tots program, Books for Tots.

The money came from two distinctive student projects:

Each year, University of Idaho-Coeur d'Alene education students in Professor Cheri Major's social studies methods class work with students in Dona Pettoel's Post Falls Middle School seventh-grade class.

This year, Pettoel's class has been learning about Mesopotamia, an ancient region of southwest Asia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in modern-day Iraq. Mesopotamia is known as the birthplace of the written word. The U of I students helped teach and support Pettoel's lesson plan, and to bring home the lesson about the region's importance to the history of literacy, and particularly, to writing itself, the university students worked with seventh-graders to make flower-topped pens. The university students sold the pens, ultimately raising $700.

With the theme of literacy in mind, Books for Tots seemed the perfect investment for the funds.

University of Idaho students Alice Downing, Amanda Corning, Jennifer Jones and Jessica Browning all were instrumental in the planning and implementation of the service learning project, which simultaneously met college curriculum goals and the state standards for seventh-grade social studies.

Additionally, $400 was raised by the North Idaho College and University of Idaho Education Club, in an effort led by University of Idaho student Erika Willy. Willy worked with three other club officers to write a grant seeking funding for Books for Tots.

Books for Tots, like Toys for Tots, go to low-income children, who are less likely to have books in their homes. Many studies have revealed that early disadvantage as one that shapes children's futures dramatically:

A 2005 study revealed that only 31 percent of children entering fourth grade read at a "proficient" or better level, and the proficiency gap widened in keeping with socioeconomic status. The study found that a child from a middle-income family typically enters first grade with about 1,000 hours of one-on-one picture book reading time with parents, other relatives, or teachers. A child from a low income family averaged less than 100 hours.

As a result, first-graders from lower-income families have about half the size of vocabulary of children from higher-income families.

By age 3, children in lower income homes will have heard only one-third as many words as children in middle and high-income homes, putting kids from low-income homes at a disadvantage academically as well as financially.

The students hope their gift will positively impact the children in Christmas present, and help shape their Christmas future.

Donna Emert is with University of Idaho Communications, (208) 640-1609, demert@uidaho.edu

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