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.

 

STAIR’s COVID Pivot, One Year Later

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STAIR's COVID Pivot, One Year Later

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on March 17, 2021

March 12, 2021 marked one year since the coronavirus pandemic forced STAIR to suspend in-person tutoring. Both hard to believe and impossible to forget, in nearly equal measure.

The world is certainly a much different place today than it was on March 12, 2020, but for STAIR, the important things haven't changed: the dedication of our wonderful volunteers, the support of our community partners, and the thrill of sharing the joy of reading with second graders.

STAIR At Home grew out of our desire to offer our students and their grown-ups a way to continue their reading adventures in safety and with more flexibility, mindful of the unprecedented challenges families were (and still are) facing as a result of the global health crisis.

To date, STAIR At Home serves 120 second-grade readers, our largest enrollment ever.

We've sent 720 monthly book packages and more than 2,000 brand new books for students' home libraries.

Students and STAIR At Home volunteers have exchanged dozens of Pen Pal letters, have met in live virtual Book Clubs, and have shared stories and resources through our secure family website.

According to the most recent assessment data from our partners at Anne Arundel County Public Schools, STAIR students are on pace to achieve grade-level reading or better by the end of the school year.

We're incredibly proud of STAIR At Home, and we're so fortunate to have had so many helpers along on this journey with us. Our volunteers, who have worked tirelessly to ensure students stay engaged and encouraged; our STAIR At Home families, who have embraced this program in ways that have exceeded our wildest expectations; our friends at Anne Arundel County Public Schools, who have gone above and beyond in their efforts to assist us; our community partners and donors, who have continued to offer their generous financial support; and our amazing second grader readers, who have been such bright lights and are improving their reading skills every day.

No matter what the next 365 days have in store, STAIR will keep moving forward for the benefit of our students!

STAIR Celebrates Read Across America

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STAIR Celebrates Read Across America

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on March 3, 2021

It's a great month to be a reader!

March is National Reading Month, and we celebrate Read Across America this week.

The National Education Association (NEA) founded Read Across America in 1998, deliberately centering the event on the popular works of Dr. Seuss in order to get kids (and their grown-ups) excited about reading. The association proved very successful, and Read Across America is now widely celebrated by school children across the country.

For the past several years, however, the NEA has made a concerted effort to distance itself from Dr. Seuss. As of August 2019, Read Across America no longer has any ties to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which means the Cat in the Hat and other Seuss characters don't appear in any official Read Across America marketing or promotional materials. Now, the NEA encourages schools and libraries to observe Read Across America by "Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers," planning events and activities that embrace a broader, more varied range of children's books.

Why this shift away from Dr. Seuss, beloved by generations of readers?

The answer is pretty simple, really: Children's literature is much bigger than a single author!

From readacrossamerica.org:

There’s a growing need for schools and libraries to include and promote diverse books. Students need books that provide both windows and mirrors if we are going to create more readers, writers, and people who feel included and recognized, and who understand that the world is far richer than just their experiences alone. NEA recognizes the need to work with a more diverse array of reading organizations and publishers to fulfill this need.

When we make time to read with kids, children get the message that reading is important and fun. When we read books that accurately and compassionately represent characters of all races, genders, and backgrounds, students discover their own voices and learn from the voices of others.

That's the goal of Read Across America, and we think that's something worth celebrating!

If you'd like to learn more about Read Across America, including recommended reading lists, fun activities that celebrate all readers, and ways to add more diversity to your bookshelves at home, here are some excellent resources to get you started:

Anne Arundel County Public Schools AACPS Unites: Celebrating Diversity in Literacy
The National Education Association Read Across America
8 Ideas to Celebrate Read Across America
Diversify Your Bookshelf (with FREE printable checklist!)

Look at What Our Students Are Reading!

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Look at What Our Students Are Reading!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on February 25, 2021

STAIR At Home students work hard to improve their reading skills every day! STAIR's modified reading program was designed to be as flexible as possible, so students and their grown-ups have the opportunity to participate in any way that works best for them.

Some of our students enjoy logging on to our live virtual Book Clubs, where they can read and talk about books with our incredible STAIR At Home volunteers.

Other students exchange letters with their STAIR At Home Pen Pal, cheerfully writing about their favorite vacations, their pets, and books they like to read.

Our STAIR At Home family website is a popular destination for students and their grown-ups to access Guest Reader stories, Tutorial Coach video lessons, and resources to make at-home reading fun.

Many of our students practice their reading skills at home using some of the new books for home libraries they receive in their STAIR At Home packages every month, and they can share what they're reading through our family website!

Here are just a few of the books our STAIR At Home students are reading this month:

  • Genesis and Gerardo are reading A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead. 
  • Keyla is reading Elephant & Piggie: My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems. 
  • Angel, Dominick, and Ian are reading The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. 
  • Emily is reading What Will We Build Today by Katherine Durgin-Bruce, illustrated by Mike Byrne, and A Sick Day for Amos McGee. 
  • John is reading another great Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems: I Really Like Slop! 
  • TreMira is reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. 
  • Zoey is reading Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

We're so proud of our awesome STAIR At Home readers! Keep up the great work!  

Love of Reading is in the Air This Month!

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Love of Reading is in the Air This Month!

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on February 10, 2021

STAIR is pleased to announce that we're now at full program capacity: 120 students—our largest enrollment ever!

Thanks to STAIR’s strong partnership with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, we were able to work with school reading specialists and the AACPS Bilingual Outreach team to help our remaining invited families complete their students’ STAIR registration. STAIR At Home now serves 10 second graders at each of our 12 locations, with monthly book packages, a dedicated volunteer Pen Pal, free access to a secure family website, and an open invitation to interactive virtual Book Clubs.

STAIR continues to benefit from the generosity of our community, from corporate donations (like the surprise gift we recently received from Sheehy INFINITI of Annapolis) to Facebook birthday fundraisers. These unexpected funds help make it possible to share the joy of reading with all 120 STAIR students through the STAIR At Home program. STAIR is incredibly appreciative of this community support in all its many forms!

And while we're on the subject of community support...

Do you belong to a local book club? Is your group interested in a feel-good philanthropy effort that helps share your love of reading with children striving to improve their literacy skills? If so, we'd love for your book club to consider becoming a sponsor of STAIR-Annapolis! You can find more information on sponsorships and giving here.

STAIR At Home Book Clubs return next week, when students and volunteers will "meet" on Google Meet to chat about our February Book of the Month, A Sick Day for Amos McGee. We're really looking forward to sharing the story with this year's STAIR students.

More on this book in next week's post, so be sure to come on back!

In Case You Missed It: STAIR-Annapolis Social Media Roundup

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In Case You Missed It: STAIR-Annapolis January Social Media Roundup

Posted by STAIR-Annapolis on January 27, 2021

Here's what you may have missed from our social media feeds this month.

We shared our January student book packages, a special snowy STAIR Saturday Storytime, some community partnership news, and more!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram @stairannapolis for all the latest, and don't forget to tag us or use our hashtags #readwithstair and #readwithstairathome in your STAIR-Annapolis posts!

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