“I thought I didn’t have an artistic bone in my body” explains student author, Nassem Roach, as he turns to tell his story to a circle of parents at Garfield Elementary school during our community icebreaker. A teacher follows suit, “My students create finger puppets to retell stories.” A parent jumps in to share her artistry in crafting unique, one-of-a-kind salads. A story is constructed: the arts, in all forms, expand opportunities for learning and creation.
Turning the Page proudly partners with many organizations within our DC and Chicago community, and this includes our seven DC school partners and six Chicago school partners. Our partners range from public libraries to research institutes to local universities and a variety of museums – a total of 80 partners across DC and Chicago in the 2015-16 school year. We appreciate all our community partners, as they contribute to the diversity and strength of TTP programming, allowing us to further our mission of engaging public school communities to increase student success.
This spring, Turning the Page partnered with Reach Incorporated. Reach Inc.’s mission states that it ”… develops grade-level readers and capable leaders by preparing teens to serve as tutors and role models for younger students, resulting in improved literacy outcomes for both. Reach Inc. operates at eight sites in Washington, D.C. where they hire teenagers from DC public high schools to tutor elementary school children in reading. Additionally, Reach Inc. has empowered many of their teen tutors to become children’s book authors themselves – a response to the lack of culturally relevant books within children’s literature. Reach Inc. states on its website that “Young readers of color need to see themselves in books. Our teen tutors didn’t see enough of these books, so they created their own.” Reach Inc. Executive Director Mark Hecker, discusses their model in more detail in his TEDx Talk.
TTP launched our collaboration with Reach, Inc. for our Community Nights series, “Creative Learning: Bringing the Arts Home.” TTP recognized a need in public schools for increased emphasis on the importance of art education, as many have begun to shift their focus more toward reading and math – subjects that are, arguably, equally as important as art education. Developmental milestones during the Pre-K years include drawing simple shapes and developing the dexterity involved in cutting with scissors, according to the National Institutes of Health. A report by Americans for the Arts states that “…art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.” Studies have found that art and academic achievement have a strong correlation. Americans for the Arts reported that children are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement if they are regular participants in the arts, compared to children who do not participate regularly.
Student authors from Reach, Inc. joined TTP Community Nights while actors from the community performed one of their books, Taking Down Ms. Moody, authored by Destiney Mayhew, Rochelle Jones and teen author, Nassem Roach. After a performance that inspired laughter and excitement, families, teachers and students engaged with the performers and authors in a Q&A session about the book, the writing process and the performance. The group discussed the impact of the arts on students’ learning and how they are integrated into the classroom. Families received resources and sample activities to encourage their own exploration of the arts and the creative process with their children. Following the evening’s events, each family took home two signed books, authored by two of Reach Inc.’s teen authors and tutors, including the evening’s featured book, Taking Down Ms. Moody. Thank you, Reach Inc., we look forward to completing many more successful events in partnership together!