A May Reading Challenge

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A May Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on May 5, 2021

May is a fantastic month to be a reader!

This month, we celebrate teachers and children's books, challenge ourselves to go screen-free (just for a little while...you can do it!), we honor Mother Goose, biographers, limericks, and cartoonists, AND we try to get caught reading!

Whether you prefer reading in a sunny spot or browsing a book in the shade, you're sure to find a great prompt or two in our reading challenge. Remember, our friends at Anne Arundel County Public Libraries are open again for in-person browsing so head to your favorite local branch to find your next great read. They've missed you! If you like to buy your books, you can support STAIR-Annapolis just by shopping on Amazon. Simply visit smile.amazon.com and select Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) - Annapolis as your preferred charity. You'll enjoy all the same Amazon products, prices, and fast shipping you're used to and STAIR will receive a portion of your purchase price at no extra cost to you. It's such an easy way to make a big difference.

For a simple May reading challenge that's easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference, follow the list below. One book per week, every week this month:

  • For Screen-Free Week (May 2-8) // Read a book about television, film, or computers.
  • For Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-8) // Read a book with the word "TEACHER" or "SCHOOL" in the title.
  • For Children's Book Week (May 3-9) // Read a children's book you loved when you were young. Younger readers can read their favorite picture book!
  • Get Caught Reading! (all month long) // Read a book in a public place: at the park, in the grocery store, in the breakroom, at a restaurant, outside a coffee shop, at school...

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!

Thanks from STAIR At Home

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Thanks from STAIR At Home

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on April 28, 2021

Not long ago, we reached out to STAIR At Home families to ask them what they think of this year's modified program so far. We know nothing can replace the one-on-one interaction between students and tutors during our typical in-person programming, but the students have truly benefited from the efforts of our volunteers--all the story videos, literacy lessons, live Book Clubs, and Pen Pal letters have really made a difference, as you can plainly see from the testimonials below.

As we close out Volunteer Appreciation Month, we wanted to take a moment to share some of the wonderful things STAIR At Home families have to say about how much STAIR volunteers have meant to their kids this year.

While we may not be able to celebrate you all in person, we want each of you to know how important your participation and support from the sidelines has been to the success of STAIR At Home. So much of the good that's come from this crazy year is because of you, and for that, we're so grateful.

We'll see you again soon!

"My daughter is very happy and likes everything about the program and everything that she does with the volunteers, who she loves."

"He likes it very much, and thank you for the dedication to each one of the children."

"Thank you, and bless you."

"This is so kind. She really loves the books and letters."

"My daughter Genesis has loved and continues to enjoy participating in the STAIR program. As a mother, I have found it to be a magnificent program and I can see my daughter has learned so much.

Thank you to all who work so hard and participate in this program so that my daughter can continue to progress. Thank you for your help."

"Adrian loves the books, Pen pal, and Book Club."

"We look forward to the monthly books and packages. It's a blessing to have these resources offered to our children in need."

"My son Indigo and I absolutely LOVE the Very Short Stories to Read Together book. Wow! Wow! Wow! He kept wanting to read more. Hooray!"

STAIR At Home April Book of the Month: Harold and the Purple Crayon

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STAIR At Home April Book of the Month: Harold and the Purple Crayon

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on April 21, 2021

This month, STAIR At Home students and Book Club volunteers are reading Harold and the Purple Crayon. Published in 1955, this timeless classic has helped generations of children discover the beauty and power of their own imaginations.

One night, young Harold decides to go for a walk in the moonlight, but there's no moon! He brings along his favorite purple crayon and draws himself an entire world full of wonder and adventure. Harold and his crayon travel through the forest, across the sea, and even past a fearsome dragon before going back home to a nice, warm bed. This delightful story is full of fun twists and surprises, and STAIR students have really enjoyed reading and discussing the book with our volunteers.

Harold and his beloved crayon represent the boundlessness of a child's imagination, so it may be surprising to learn that Crockett Johnson, Harold's creator, spent the final decade of his life making art defined by the precision of advanced mathematics.

Johnson had built his career as a popular cartoonist and children's author/illustrator. It's tempting to see his work as simple or minimalistic, but Johnson was actually a meticulous planner, even in drawing his Harold books.

"Each book is in fact one giant drawing that Johnson figured out in advance, and then had Harold draw, revealing his progress a page at a time. Harold does not erase, and only rarely crosses out," says Philip Nel, who maintains an extensive website dedicated to the life and work of Crockett Johnson.

After the publication of his final Harold book, Harold's ABC in 1963, Johnson turned his attention to the world of fine art. In 1965, he began work on a series of paintings inspired by the laws of geometry and mathematics.

Using an old math textbook, Johnson painted equations and mathematical proofs in bright, geometric representations. Because he wasn't an experienced fine artist, he used materials he could find easily, like boards made of pressed wood and house paint mixed at the hardware store.

Despite not having any formal mathematical training or advanced education, Crockett Johnson was eventually able to publish two original mathematical proofs in scholarly journals just by experimenting with math problems through his artwork.

“He would paint versions of a problem until he arrived at a solution, and when he arrived at a solution, he would correspond with mathematicians to try and get the algebra,” says Nel.

By the time of his death in 1975, Johnson had produced more than 100 mathematical proof paintings. Much like his illustrations for the Harold books, he intended for the paintings to be viewed as a single, cohesive piece rather than a collection of separate works. He also never sold a single one.

Today, most of Crockett Johnson's mathematical paintings are held in the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. You can view them here.

Artwork: Proof of the Pythagorean Theorum (Euclid), Crockett Johnson, 1965.
Source: "The Artful Precision of the Creator of 'Harold and the Purple Crayon,'" Atlas Obscura.

Welcome, Julieta!

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We're Growing! New Program Manager Joins STAIR-Annapolis Team

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on April 14, 2021

STAIR-Annapolis is pleased to announce the addition of a fourth member to the program's administrative staff.

Julieta Slattery joins us this month as our new Program Manager!

Julieta spent many years as a real estate and marketing professional before coming on board with us here at STAIR-Annapolis. Her networking and customer service expertise is well-suited to her new role as Program Manager, where she'll be responsible for recruiting and training Site Coordinators, providing ongoing program support, and working to ensure the program is delivered consistently across all sites.

A native of El Salvador, Julieta knows first-hand that literacy is paramount to a lifetime of learning and success.

Julieta is a longtime Maryland resident and a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park. She lives in Shady Side with her husband and their West Highland terrier, and she enjoys reading, yoga, travel, and cooking all types of cuisine.

We're so excited to welcome Julieta to the STAIR-Annapolis team and can't wait to see all the wonderful things she'll do for the program as we continue to look for ways to improve and grow in order to serve even more second graders in need of reading support.

Julieta can be reached at Program_Manager@stairannapolis.org.

Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month!

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Happy Volunteer Appreciation Month!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on April 7, 2021

Volunteers are at the heart of the STAIR-Annapolis organization. We're so fortunate to have a strong team of volunteer tutors helping our students improve their reading skills and boost their self-confidence. This year, we've had more than 150 of those volunteers join us on our STAIR At Home adventure and countless more cheering us on as they await a return to in-person tutoring. Their unwavering dedication and support have made it possible for STAIR-Annapolis to continue to serve young readers.

Like all of our community partners serving youth in education, STAIR-Annapolis has been striving valiantly this past year to safely provide the programming kids need and families rely on. Despite the incredible challenges brought about by the global pandemic, we've experienced real growth, serving our largest student enrollment to date, building digital systems that engage families, staying connected to our volunteers, and offering students a flexible, safe way to get the reading support they need whenever it's most convenient for them.

None of this would be possible without our amazing volunteers!

Nearly everything on the STAIR At Home family website has been submitted by volunteers, from read-aloud videos recorded by Guest Readers and mini literacy lessons from Tutorial Coaches to at-home activities and tips provided by Research Aides. The webpage has become a go-to site for students and their grown-ups to access quality reading resources and fun new ways to share the joy of reading at home. With an average of more than 100 visits per month, we know this content is making a real difference in the lives of STAIR At Home students.

Monthly Book Clubs have been another wonderful way for our volunteers to connect virtually with students (sometimes their siblings and pets join in, too!). By meeting regularly to read together and discuss books, our volunteers have been able to replicate the meaningful relationships that develop between tutor and student over the course of a typical year of in-person programming. More than 35% of STAIR At Home students have attended at least one virtual Book Club, even though kids already spend long days at the computer for e-learning. We've had students log on from daycare centers, from a parent's workplace, even from the backseat of a car! It's so heartening to know that families believe in this program and in the work of our volunteers so much that they're willing to make STAIR At Home Book Club a priority whenever they can.

The final volunteer-driven component of the STAIR At Home program is our very popular Pen Pal exchange. Every STAIR At Home student has been paired with a volunteer Pen Pal and receives a new letter in his or her monthly book package. That means every month, every STAIR student gets a small reminder that someone is thinking of them and interested in what they're doing, wishing them well, encouraging their literacy development, and showing kindness during a really tough time. It's such a simple thing, but it means so much.

This Volunteer Appreciation Month, we couldn't possibly be more grateful for all the ways our volunteers have stepped up and shown up for students. We know nothing could ever replace the delight of building a one-on-one relationship, seeing a child's smiling face each week, helping a young reader develop new skills, or sharing the simple pleasure of reading a good book together, but we want to be sure our volunteers--all of our volunteers--know just how much they mean to us and just how much their efforts are appreciated.

From all of us at STAIR-Annapolis, thank you.


An April Reading Challenge

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An April Reading Challenge

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on March 31, 2021

April showers might bring May flowers, but what we're really excited about is that it's National Poetry Month!

This month, we'd like you to explore all the beautiful, wonderful, expressive, emotive poetry you can.

According to this great post from Proud to Be Primary, exposure to poetry can help young readers build better speaking and listening skills, explore language and new vocabulary, become better writers, think creatively, and develop a life-long love of reading.

For older readers, this article featured on Brightly reminds us that poetry is a powerful medium that holds music and history, teaches us patience, lets us share our feelings, and gives us a way to empathize with the feelings and experiences of others.

For a simple April reading challenge that's easy to adapt to any age, reading level, or genre preference, follow the list below. One book per week, every week this month:

  • Read a poetry anthology.
  • Read a book of classic or ancient poems.
  • Listen to poetry: Borrow or buy a poetry audiobook, find a poetry reading video online, or attend a virtual poetry reading.
  • Make a list of your three favorite songs and read the lyrics for each one. That's poetry! Sites like AZLyrics and lyrics.com are a great starting point, with repositories of thousands of song lyrics spanning decades and genres.

Good luck! We'll be back next month with a new reading challenge for you. Until then, keep reading!