The Virgin Islands Campaign for Grade-Level Reading by Third Grade
The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in partnership with the Early Childhood Advisory Committee of the Governor's Children and Families Council expanded an existing Quality Education Work Group to serve as the Sponsoring Coalition for this initiative. Since then, we have merged with the Literacy Council of the Department of Education's Striving Readers grant to form a unified and stronger cross-sector coalition. The theme of the Virgin Islands Literacy Council is "Literacy for Life!"
It is our goal in the next few months to establish Councils on each of the three major islands with an overarching VI Literacy Council. This will enable each island council to respond to island specific needs, encourage active participation of partners on each island, and engage in on-going activities tailored to island specific issues.
Throughout the past year we have been engaged in many initiatives designed to boost outcomes in the three strategic areas: school readiness, combating summer learning loss, and promotion of school attendance.
Specific messages to promote language and early literacy have been designed to enhance community awareness about the importance of talking with children, reading and sharing books with young children, actively engaging children in play and learning experiences, and the role that adults play in supporting and facilitating learning. These include:
Putting messages in grocery carts that give suggestions for activities that parent can do with their children as they shop - such as talking about colors and tastes of the foods.
Dissemination of hundreds of flyers at the annual Agriculture and Food Fair called, “Talk at the Fair” in English and Spanish which give parents suggestions of topics to talk about with their children as they enjoy the Fair together.
Posters - "While You Wait" placed in waiting rooms and "Doing Laundry" for laundromats with ideas of activities that parents and children can do together.
Dissemination of posters entitled, “Is Your Child Ready for School?” which describes skills that children are expected to have when they enter kindergarten and aligned with the domains in the VI Early Learning Guidelines.
The Family Connection (TFC), a program of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, continues to provide a lending library of children's books and educational materials, as well as special activities to promote language, literacy, and healthy development. We have seen a significant increase in the number of parent and children visiting the Center and participating in activities. To combat summer learning loss, there have been 11 visits by summer camp programs for reading and learning through play activities plus 4 special Saturday activities for children and parents. Every child who visits, takes home a gently used book from the TFC Book Bank. The TFC Book bank has given away over 3,000 books in the last year from the center and at community events.
The Office of the Governor sponsored the "Governor's Reading Challenge" again this summer, providing lists on online sources of free books, as well as promoting his challenge for children to read 5 books during the summer. The TFC Book Bank partnered with the Governor by supplementing the Governor's books. Those who meet the challenge will be honored at a fun day hosted by the Governor and First Lady. Additionally, the Office of the Governor gives a book away to children as part of the Christmas holiday festivities.
In the fall, the Department of Education will be implementing a new data collection system that will provide more accurate attendance information. The VI will be participating in the national Attendance Month activities in September.