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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2008

'Raising Readers' outreach equates literacy with fun in East Toledo

BY MEREDITH BYERS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Elizabeth Martin, center, and her friends Olivia Ickes, standing at left, and Ashia Owens examine the masks that they made on the last day of a weeklong program at the East Toledo Family Center to help children become better readers. The program was sponsored by the center and WGTE TV 30. The lessons are incorporated with the PBS program Super Why!, a literacy-oriented program for preschoolers. Elizabeth Martin, center, and her friends Olivia Ickes, standing at left, and Ashia Owens examine the masks that they made on the last day of a weeklong program at the East Toledo Family Center to help children become better readers. The program was sponsored by the center and WGTE TV 30. The lessons are incorporated with the PBS program Super Why!, a literacy-oriented program for preschoolers.
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Cheryl Amborski, a preschool teacher at the East Toledo Family Center, knows the importance of making learning fun.

"You have to make learning exciting or the children won't respond," she said.

To prove this, the East Toledo Family Center and WGTE TV 30 are working together on a research project designed to find the most effective ways to teach young children how to read.

The weeklong program, called "Raising Readers," offers a prescribed curriculum that includes activities like Alphabet Bingo and teaching skills such as identifying letters and sounds, problem solving skills, learning the letters in their names, opposites, and spelling activities.

The lessons are incorporated with the PBS program Super Why!, a literacy-oriented program for preschoolers.

"The children just love the music," said Sally Brinkman, a school readiness specialist with WGTE who helps out with the program.

The reading program is part of a research project funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and managed by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sally Brinkman, a school readiness specialist with WGTE-TV, helps out with the program. Sally Brinkman, a school readiness specialist with WGTE-TV, helps out with the program.
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WGTE Public Media, a nonprofit organization providing media to northwest Ohio, west-central Ohio, and southeast Michigan, was selected as one of the first five PBS member stations in the country as a partner in the new national PBS Kids Raising Readers literacy initiative.

Kathy Smith, the director of early learning and outreach for WGTE, said the station was selected because of the diversity of its viewing audience.

"One of the interesting things about our market is how ethnically diverse we are and how we have so many different kinds of families," she said.

Only 20 stations were included in the grant, which is good for five years.

The local program is in its second year and was taught by Ms. Smith and Ms. Amborski, as well as Sally Brinkman and Lois Levison, both school readiness specialists for WGTE, and Tambria Williams, a child-care staff member of the family center in East Toledo.

Ms. Smith said she held a parent orientation to explain the program objective, because learning continues even after the children leave the classroom.

A test follows each lesson, and the children have small homework pages each night that follow up the day's activity.

The program aims to make the learning interactive. The children, for example, play a variation of basketball where students pick up a piece of paper with a letter written on it and are then asked to identify the letter and its sound.

Afterward, they crumple their letters into balls and get to make a basket.

Ms. Smith said the children who attended the recent program were recruited by the East Toledo Family Center, and most will begin kindergarten in the fall.

"We're looking at how we can use educationally rich media content and how kids who are living in low-income families will best respond to these messages," she said.



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