Tuesday, January 29, 2013

ACT Scores Soar at St. Michael Indian School

(Reader to Reader’s Navajo Nation Outreach Coordinator, Ophelia Hu, reports from St. Michaels, Arizona.)

The new semester has just begun, and here in the Navajo Nation, we’re putting juniors to work studying for their ACTs. Why don’t we join them in a multiple-choice exercise?

- Which of the following represents an ACT victory for this year’s seniors at St. Michael Indian School?

A. An increase in average score from last year by 5.63 points
B. A 64% increase from last year in the proportion of seniors who took the test
C. Collectively scoring above the state and national average for the first time in three years (From 25.92% below the national average to .10% above the national average in one year!)
D. An increase in the mode (most commonly earned) score by 9 points from last year
E. All of the above

In reality, this should be an open-ended essay question, because there are many more right answers. (But the answer is E. All of the above.)

These are just numbers, and they fail to capture the totality of influencing factors, but these numbers still make me proud. Moreover, they describe the innate, not inculcated, abilities of these and countless students like them in the Navajo Nation. Too often, educators, policy-makers, and others write off academic success as an ethnic or socioeconomic prescription. And other times, they tell underserved communities that no barriers exist to their achievement, yet without the tools necessary for success that other schools have, students face daunting challenges. Then, students often believe these lies about themselves. Of course, these students’ results are the reward of their hard work, but I hope that these numbers also show the great reserves of intelligence, potential, and desire in all young people, and how even a modest investment of time and resources can awaken great abilities.

But not all of our efforts can be summarized quantitatively. How do I quantify the love for reading kindled by a long-awaited book that Reader to Reader recently donated? And the boy who returned it after reading for a day because he bought his own copy and wanted someone else to be able to check out this one? Or the gladness of librarians who receive the books Reader to Reader sends? And how do I quantify the confidence and skills gained by students working with their Reader to Reader mentors? Or the boon in our writing workshops, and how they vest student and adult writers with voices?

At our first women's writing workshop the other night, one woman wrote a deeply personal recollection and read it aloud for the first time, prompting tears and similar stories from many others. The whole event was therapeutic and trust-building for us all.

Other women spanned topics from love letters to ourselves to stories about how pets inspire us, recollections of youth, introductions of culture, etc. Every piece projected incredible beauty and hope. Our writing almost immediately cemented us strangers together in love and trust. And this was just our first meeting. Never underestimate the power of the written craft!

The blog that links student writing workshops to the women’s writing workshop should be fully functional by next week, so stay tuned for its release. Right now, we’re devising ways for our growing base of interested long-distance contacts to be involved.

To me, there is something powerful about equipping a community to tell its own stories when it has long been told that outsiders would tell its stories. And while Native Americans are often depicted as a people of the past, their words belong on a globally accessible, constantly updated platform. I hope that the blog can serve this purpose in some small way.

We’re also continuing programs at Navajo Pine and Window Rock High Schools, including college and skill-building workshops, and with the Navajo Nation’s First Lady to organize educational fairs. Soon, College Knowledge will be underway with our partnership with Dartmouth College’s Native American Program. We may also begin a network of writers’ workshops across the Navajo Nation to link writers together and broadcast their work.

This is just a slice of our activities, here. Check back soon for a link to the writers’ blog and more updates. Thank you for reading!


Funding for the Navajo Outreach Coordinator position comes in part from the Hiatt Family, the Fordham Street Foundation, John & Elizabeth Armstrong, and Lynn & Jean Miller.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chinle Head Start Building Destroyed by Fire

Reader to Reader has launched a supply drive to help replenish materials lost in a January 3rd fire that consumed the Navajo Head Start's Chinle Agency warehouse on the Navajo Nation in Chinle, Arizona.

It is still being determined whether the fire was the result of arson.

The Navajo Head Start Program, Chinle Agency, has a broad has an important role across the 27,000 square-mile Navajo nation. It is funded to serve 883 Home Based Programs with an enrollment of 228 children and 33 classrooms serving 655 children. These programs are operated in 17 Navajo Nation Chapter communities.

Reader to Reader is sending hundreds of books and is also collecting the following school supplies:

-New children’s books for pre-K ages
-Crayons/Markers/Colored Pencils
-Pencil Sharpeners
-Construction Paper
-Pipe cleaners
-Glue sticks
-Popsicle sticks
-Cotton balls
-Googly eyes

Anyone that would like to contribute supplies can send them to:

Head Start Supply Drive
c/o Reader to Reader
Cadigan Center
38 Woodside Ave.
Amherst, MA 01002

Please help!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

“My daughter loves to see me studying at her school”

“Good luck mommy!” said six year old Amaderis to her mom as they parted ways in the Kelly School hallway. Amaderis went into her kindergarten classroom while her mom, Adneris Rosario, carried on to the Kelly Family Literacy Center to join her own class of other parents. Reader to Reader's DiscoverBooks classes have started up again in Holyoke, Massachusetts!

Parents of Kelly and EN White Schools are improving their English while learning how to support and advocate for their child's education. Being in the schools and classrooms of their children has a strong effect on parents and kids alike, and each week families bring home new books to read and share!

Parents learn and practice English through activities that promote literacy as well as positive parent involvement in their child’s education and school community.

“My daughter loves to see me studying at her school,” Adneris says, “And so do I because I feel at home here now, whereas before I would drop her off but never come in the building.” Abimael Rosado, father of four children at Kelly, feels it’s beneficial for both himself and his family that he is participating at the school. “My children are more motivated to come to school when they see their dad studying here,” he says. “It also helps me be more connected and by learning English I can help them with their homework.”

We are very excited to be supporting these families: the image above shows real feedback and images of participating parents. For more information on DiscoverBooks, read http://reader2reader.blogspot.com/2012/12/discoverbooks-integrates-english.html

Monday, January 14, 2013

Your help in securing books was invaluable!

(Thank you letter received by our Family Literacy Coordinator, Katy Moonan.)

Dear Katy,

Thank you so much for volunteering for the Three Kings Day Celebration. Your help in securing books was invaluable. Parents and children were excited to receive the books. We saw many of them reading in the hallway while waiting to enter the cafeteria. I hope we can count on you for next year!

Every year we anticipate the Three Kings Day Celebration and all the music, dancing, books, presents and conviviality that our students and their families enjoy with us. This year, we had more than 800 people attend the event. Each child received a book bag, a book, and a gift from the Three Kings. The children and their families enjoyed music, a traditional Puerto Rican dinner and a performance by a traditional dance group of students from our own schools.

An event of this size is not possible without the efforts of many volunteers and donors. All of us in the Holyoke Public Schools’ English Language Learners Department and the Mayor’s office for Early Literacy want to thank you for your time, donations, and support of this annual event. We look forward to next year and hope you will consider volunteering again.


Linda Amaral,
Holyoke Public Schools

Andrew Melendez,
Holyoke Early Literacy Coordinator

Three Kings Day Celebration

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Join us for an evening of song and story and enjoy a delicious meal. This event celebrates educational opportunity in western Massachusetts and is a great way to meet like-minded individuals. Reader to

Reader’s own Kat Libby will be speaking at the event.

Supper, Story & Song will happen on January 21st, 6-8pm on the Amherst College campus at Lewis- Sebring Dining Commons, 59 College Street, Amherst MA.

The event includes performances by Scott Coen, the Amherst College Bluestockings, the Madrigal Singers and others.

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at the Amherst Chamber of Commerce, Amherst Books or at A.J. Hastings.

This event is jointly sponsored by the Amherst College Campus Challenge and Martin Luther King Planning Committees and will directly benefit educational services provided by Reader to Reader and fellow nonprofits Amherst A Better Chance (ABC House) and Homework House Holyoke.