Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Transforming young readers into young leaders

Staff Writer | May 6, 2022 1:00 AM

There’s hope for the future.

That’s the message Miche Kirkman of the League of Idaho Cities said she has seen over and over again as she talks to young students in schools.

Kirkman is program manager of the Readers Become Leaders program, which is designed to connect city officials with third-graders to teach them how a city works and offer examples of civic leadership. The League of Idaho Cities is part of the Association of Idaho Cities, a nonprofit that serves Idaho cities with a mission to promote excellence and advocate for city governance, community leadership and citizenship to help strengthen cities.

This school year was the kickoff for Readers Become Leaders and Kirkman estimated the program was presented in about 40 schools throughout the state. Kirkman said their vision is to connect city officials with third-graders and promote STEM learning, civic awareness, creative problem solving, and leadership.

Cities were invited to participate by sending a city official to schools to read a book provided through the program, talk with students and pass out the activity books. The book, called “FRIEND City,” follows a group of young friends who live in a dysfunctional town. The kids come together to create a city and work through the challenges involved with it. The activity book prompts kids to think about what they learned about their city, and how they can improve their city.

Kirkman said some cities had their police and fire department, garbage trucks and more come to the school during the event for the kids to view.

“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that we sometimes forget about,” Kirkman said. “We use that part of the program to show the kids that every day, all day long, the people who are working for their city are creatively solving problems through science, through technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Kirkman said the goal is to go back every year and attend as many schools as the cities direct them.

“We are letting the cities kind of run this,” Kirkman said. “We want them to customize it.”

Renata McLeod, Coeur d’Alene city clerk, said she was excited for the opportunity to read to the third graders at Sorensen Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities.

Before reading, McLeod said the city brought the trucks to the school to demonstrate how sewer lines were cleaned, and wastewater staff demonstrated placing orange cones.

“The students were so excited to see the equipment in action and amazed at the strength of the suction,” McLeod said.

Students also had an opportunity to win money for their classroom by filling out an entry form and promising to work through the activity book to be entered into the drawing. Three kids out of every district were drawn to win $100 for their classroom, and the grand prize winner, Kanyon Stone of Sorenson Magnet School of the Arts and Humanities, received $1000 for her classroom.

Third-grade teacher Moira DuCoeur said the two third-grade teachers are planning to use the award to take the classes on a field trip to Fernan lake, as well as order new playground balls for recess and science.

“We are grateful to our third-grade teachers in empowering students in their early literacy skill building,” Principal Brett DePew said. “It is the gateway to the world outside our borders."

Kirkman said it was beautiful to watch the kids thinking about how they were going to help their city at the different schools. She remembered in particular a blind student who came to her with his idea of helping blind people navigate the streets easier. She also remembered a student who said he got his mom out of bed early because he wanted to wear a tie to meet the mayor who came to read at his school.

Kirkman said there’s hundreds of stories she could share, and while she hears a lot from people that they’re scared for the future, the kids are in trouble and the kids have nothing going on, she begs to differ.

“I’m working with these little guys and we’re connecting them with their leaders and showing them that they have a voice,” Kirkman said. “My perspective of the future is we have a very bright future and the more that we can talk to these kids and empower them, the greater our state is going to be.”

Schools interested in Readers Become Leaders should contact their city hall.

“FRIEND City” can be found at idahocities.org/store/viewproduct.aspx?id=19074246.