Through our Community Schools program, GHCC collaborates with over 80 partners to bring innovative learning opportunities into local public schools. Goucher College is one of those many dedicated partners whose Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story afterschool literacy program has been running strong for more than a decade. We recently caught up with Goucher students Jacob Webbert and Emily Timothy, who direct the program at Barclay Elementary/Middle School.
Tell us a little about yourselves.
Hi everyone, my name is Jacob and I’m a psychology major (with a pre-medical focus) at Goucher College. In addition to being a student and a Director for Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story, I also serve as the Chair of the Judicial Board for Goucher College. In the summers I work on a small farm in central Maine.
I first got involved with Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story as part of a community-based learning class that I took at Goucher my freshman year. Every semester since I continued on with the program as a volunteer.
Hi, I’m Emily, I’m a sophomore Chemistry major at Goucher College. On campus, I’m also involved in Gophers for Goucher, a group of students who provide philanthropic support to the college, and I’m a workshop facilitator for first-year Chemistry students.
When I came to Goucher and found out about Read-a-Story/Write-a Story, I jumped on the opportunity to be a part of this program. Throughout high school I worked a lot with younger students as a mentor, tutor, or ‘teacher’s helper’, and I knew this was something I was passionate about. After a year of volunteering, I was excited to get the opportunity to be an assistant director this year.
How did Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story come into existence?
Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story was founded more than a decade ago by Goucher students with the help of their professors. The idea was to create a program to more closely connect the College and its students to the neighborhood that Goucher originally existed in before it moved to Towson in 1953. It has been continuously operated and run by students ever since.
What’s your favorite thing about doing the program?
One of the best things about the program that we get to see every semester is the partnerships that form between the Goucher students and the Barclay students working together. We try to maintain a 1:1 ratio between the students with the goal of being able to foster some fantastic teams who get to work, help, and have fun with each other throughout the course of the entire semester. Seeing all the smiles, hearing all the laughter and questions, and experiencing all the stories and partnerships is without a doubt our favorite thing about Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story.
What goals do you hope the students will accomplish with the program?
We strive to see improvement in literacy, both reading and writing, for all students at all skill levels. With the partnerships that Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story creates though, it is also our goal to see increases in confidence, outreach, and communication. Students have fun with each other and they grow to be more comfortable connecting, asking questions, and trying new things. At the end of the program, the tangible finished products are the fantastic books that each student creates themself.
Will you describe some of the activities in detail that the students are learning/doing?
We usually start off the program with a quick game to help work off some of the energy from the day. Then we pick and read a story together as an entire group (Dr. Seuss and the fairy tale collection remain very popular with everyone). When we finish, we break up into teams of Goucher and Barclay students who then pick their own books to read with each other.
During the semester, each Barclay student receives a blank book of their own. With their Goucher student, they work on their own story and illustrations, each week adding a little bit more. By the end of the program they have a completed book of their own that they can bring home to keep and read.
What is your favorite aspect of working with students in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade?
One of the best things about this age group is their excitement, creativity, and curiosity to learn about just about anything. These qualities really lend themselves not just to building fun and strong partnerships, but also to writing some really great stories. Just this semester, a Barclay student has begun writing a story about a butterfly, a family of bears, and a school bus (we haven’t quite figured out the eventual role of the bus in the story, but it has been made clear to us that it is definitely an integral part of it). Everyone has so much fun and one of the identifying characteristics about our classroom is the echoing laughter emanating from it.
Can you share a story or an achievement that took place in the program this year?
We had a Barclay student who, when he first started in the program, was very shy and tried to avoid reading mainly because he was a little embarrassed about his abilities. Each week though, his partner would read to him and they’d work together on a story. He loved to draw and so he would first draw his story ideas out while talking and answering questions with his partner about what he was doing. They’d then work on the letters and sentences to describe the story he was telling. A month or two into the program, he was waving us down as we were checking in with each group so that he could read aloud the new sentence that he had just completed. These are the kinds of achievements that we love to see. They never get old.
What are the biggest lessons that you hope to instill in the young people that you work with?
The most powerful component of our program is the partnerships that are formed and fostered between students of all different ages, backgrounds, and strengths. If there is any one thing that we had to pick, it’s that community and teamwork are powerful concepts that can accomplish anything. Working together can pay large dividends and, more often than not, it’s a lot more fun.
What does the future look like for Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story?
Read-A-Story/Write-A-Story is a strong and popular program both at Barclay and at Goucher. The future of the program may shift in terms of its day-to-day activities but the core of the program and the partnerships it strives to form and create, will always remain at the heart of its mission.
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