Please note that the following is Jeana McClure’s final submission for the Portland State University Course UNST 421: Enhancing Youth Literacy. While this was an assignment for class, it is also an actual plan for action beyond the classroom . Jeana is an excellent example of someone who has been working in the community and who is dedicated to continue to do so. This is an inspiring start for our series of student action plans here at PDXEAN:
This course has confirmed my belief that investment in and support of early childhood education is absolutely critical to preparing children for success in life. The research seems indisputable: Investing early in support for children is less expensive and has long-term benefit, for the individual child and the community at large, than investments made later in life.
The evidence is in: quality early education benefits children of all social and economic groups. There are both short- and long-term economic benefits to taxpayers and the community if early education that meets high standards is available to all children, starting with those who are most disadvantaged. Indeed, universally available quality early education would benefit everyone and be the most cost-effective economic investment(Calman & Tarr-Whelan, 2005, p. 1).
My personal interests in early childhood education are focused on supporting language development and emerging literacy. My community involvement will continue that focus through a combination of direction interaction with children and families, support for nonprofit organizations that provide literacy and other services to families, and advocacy at the local and state level for programs and policies that support early childhood education.
Goals: The next three months
In the next several weeks, I will work with the capstone students to get the library’s Summer Reading Program materials to the University Park Community Center summer camp kids. I think I’d like to work through the Kenton branch youth services librarian; I know they’ll be getting a new librarian July 1 (as part of the staff shuffling related to budget cuts). This is a perfect opportunity to help establish that relationship between the new librarian, Amourie and Danielle.
I will continue to volunteer at the Belmont Library on Saturday mornings for Family Story Time, and I’m signed up to volunteer again with the Summer Reading Program, which runs June 15-Aug. 31. Saturdays will be Library Days, as I’ll open the library at 10 a.m. with story time and close it with Summer Reading from 3-5 p.m.
I’ve also already signed up (through the Hands On Greater Portland website) to volunteer with Children’s Book Bank on Wednesday, June 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. I’ll be working to clean up donated books that will be distributed to low-income preschool children in Portland. If that goes well, I’d like to do that once every month or so.
I’d love to be able to volunteer with SMART again in the fall, but I’m not sure my schedule will allow it. However, I contribute financially and get their newsletter, which arrived this week, and listed on their Board of Directors is someone I work with! I just happened to be in a meeting with him after I read that, and said I’d like to connect the UPCC staff with someone at SMART who could talk about their new pre-K program. I was excited to read about that, because when I was volunteering three years ago, they only served grades K-3. If SMART volunteers could be another source of support for the preschool, I think that would be fantastic.
I’ve had several conversations with the youth librarian at Belmont about the fact that the “white, middle-class, mainstream” kids are the ones whose parents bring them to story time, even in neighborhoods where libraries serve a racially diverse clientele. She said outreach to minority communities, particularly the Hispanic community, is more effective than expecting them to come to the library. It occurred to me this term that if I want to help the kids who are most at-risk, I will need to go to them. I will need to understand their cultural values and practices around literacy, so that I can more effectively communicate the value of literacy practices that contribute to school success.
I think the first step in that effort is learning Spanish. I’m going to buy the Spanish Rosetta Stone software and start that this summer, before graduate school begins. One of my teammates at work is a native Spanish speaker, so I have someone with whom I can practice!
Goals: The following three months
In addition to sustaining the ongoing activities at the library, I’d like to volunteer with an organization I’ve supported financially for more than a decade, Growing Gardens. Growing Gardens builds gardens for low-income families, “decreas[ing] chances of food insecurity by empowering low-income families to grow food for themselves, friends and neighbors in their own back yard” (GG website http://www.growing-gardens.org/our-programs/home-gardens.php).
When I discovered Growing Gardens and this wonderful mission, I was transported back to the days when I could go down to the basement on a frigid February morning and bring up a jar of home-canned peaches for the morning’s breakfast. When I was growing up, we always had a garden, or went to the “u-pick” fruit orchards and corn fields. When we were old enough, we kids weeded the garden rows, climbed ladders to pick fruit, and helped my mother can or freeze tomatoes, beans, corn, peaches, cherries, apricots. I would love to help install garden beds next fall, so other kids can eat healthy foods they helped grow and prepare.
Finally, I believe it will be important to be politically engaged for this fall’s vote on the Multnomah County Library district (assuming it gets on the ballot). Having just voted on library funding, it’s a likely possibility there will be voter confusion about the issue in November’s election (there is already unrest among the citizenry about libraries closing on Mondays even after the library levy passed last month).
I haven’t been politically engaged since 2004, so this will be the most difficult aspect of my plan. I haven’t the stomach for door-to-door canvassing or phone banks, so at this point, I’m not entirely sure what my support will look like. Fortunately, I have friends in the Government Affairs department at work who can provide guidance, as well as the library’s Volunteer Services. They have created a newsletter that comes out periodically keeping the volunteers informed about the latest developments with library funding, which has proven to be useful.
Staying on track
I’m already highly motivated, and staying committed won’t be a problem. The unknown is how much time my graduate program will take; I was told by the director of the program that I should expect to “give up” all my outside activities. If it turns out that graduate school really does become all-consuming, I still will be working toward supporting literacy. My master’s program is in library science, and I plan to specialize in children and youth services.
However, I’ve worked full-time while taking 8-10 credits a quarter at PSU for the last three years (the master’s program is 6 credits on the semester system), plus volunteering every week at the library since June 2010. At this point, I’m going to plan for being able to maintain a similar level of community involvement. I also would like to take advantage of staying connected through the PDXEAN blog and Facebook page!
Calman, L.J. & Tarr-Whelan, L. (2005) Early Childhood Education for All: A Wise Investment. New York, NY: Legal Momentum.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in following up with Jeana.