By Kim Walter
The Claude Moore Charitable Foundation in Fairfax is providing its sixth and largest grant - in the amount of $46,245 - to the Claude Moore Center for Literacy at Shenandoah University.
Since providing the first grant in 2008, the foundation has now given a total of more than $217,000 to support the center, which states its purpose as "to promote literacy in the region through excellent education for current and future teachers, as well as through direct community outreach to children and families."
Jennifer Bousquet, director of grant support and foundation relations at the university, has worked with faculty to get all six of the grants, and has seen the center grow over the years.
"It started with creating a program that was part of graduate students' degrees," she said. "But it has grown from that quite a lot, through involving many faculty members and creating other initiatives."
Bousquet attributed the success of SU's literacy program to the belief that the best way to promote literacy in children is to have superb teachers who can help students who struggle with reading, no matter the subject.
"It's always a good thing when we can get science, math and history teachers help through the center," she said. "Reading is essential to every subject."
The Center for Literacy holds clinics and camps, which pair graduate students who are taking a reading course with elementary and middle school-aged students who need help with reading. The graduate students are usually already teachers in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, but are continuing their education. The clinics and camps help them apply what they've learned about teaching students how to read.
"The children get a tutor, and the graduate student gets wonderful, intensive feedback through the program," Bousquet said. The clinics and camps are offered at both the Loudoun and Winchester campuses.
Another initiative set to be expanded this year uses computer and software assisted methods to get children excited about writing. Last year, through the pilot version of the computer-based writing camp, students who had struggled with writing were able to publish a book.
A bit more than half of these grant funds go toward scholarships for graduate students enrolled in the reading program, Bousquet said.
This year, a new opportunity will be offered through the center, which will identify teachers from area Title 1 schools and make it possible for them to participate in the university's annual Children's Literacy Workshop over the summer. Supplemental in-service workshops will be provided for the teachers as well.
Teacher workshops will be made possible for faculty at Winchester Day Nursery with the funds, too. Faculty members from the university also will help mentor students at Daniel Morgan Middle School and Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart through reading groups on a regular basis.
"What we do with the grant money now is very different from the first couple years since the center started," Bousquet said. "Then, it was about getting equipment, books, teaching materials, assessment tools ... but now we're able to be more creative with the funds. This is now the third year we've been able to offer scholarships."
Bousquet said she feels that SU's School of Education and Human Development, which fosters the Center for Literacy, is all about community outreach and that is why keeping the center going is so important to its faculty.
"SU came here in 1960 at the request of community leaders who wanted a university here that ensured a more educated work force and a better quality of life for citizens," she said. "Our faculty is committed to that in many different ways, but literacy is essential."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org