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  • Writer's pictureBenay Hicks

Dream Initiative 2020: Summer In a Pandemic

By Taquoia Street, Book Harvest board member

Editor’s note: Taquoia is not just any board member; in fact, her daughter Ivory Jade was a member of the first Book Babies graduating class! Last summer, Taquoia founded the Dream Initiative, supported by Book Harvest and inspired by her experience with the Book Babies program. Here’s her reflection on the second summer of her program, which just wrapped up.

3 Months 29 Durham Families 580 Books Delivered

I was a proud recipient of the Family Literacy Grant from Durham’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading to create a project that I believe would positively impact 3rd grade reading outcomes.

My overall mission this summer was to provide resources to enhance skills in reading comprehension, math, science, and financial literacy to families with rising 1st-3rd grade students with the goal of improving Durham’s schools scores. In order to accomplish this, I thought that it would be a great idea to create a program that will give some of Durham’s students a “Jumpstart” for the upcoming school year by continuing education for students during the summer break, and by increasing parent engagement to ensure that families have access to the tools needed to succeed. When COVID-19 hit our community, I had to pivot. Instead of postponing, I decided to change my approach from gathering once a month, to safely hosting material pick ups.

This summer 29 families registered for this free program by filling out a google survey that was advertised on social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram), word of mouth, and Book Harvest helped share with families by posting the ad. I met with families at the W.G. Pearson Center one Saturday a month for a total of 3 visits over the summer. The families would pull up, and I would put the materials right in the car. After a lunch break, if students were able to join, they would meet me on zoom for a 40 minute financial literacy lesson.

Each month students received a story, with questions to practice reading comprehension, reading strategies appropriate for the student’s grade level, addition/subtraction math word problems, a financial literacy activity to complete in conjunction with the zoom financial literacy lesson facilitated by me, and instructions to complete a science project with the materials needed to complete the project as a family. But that’s not all…they also received a snack, school supplies, and books donated by Book Harvest.

Parents received general tips—how to use reading strategies, tips for difficult conversations with your children about protests, and racism, resources to support family literacy, and back to school tips in the midst of a pandemic. But that’s not all…parents also received financial literacy lessons as well—building emergency funds, debt elimination and building wealth, and investing for the future.

In addition to what families were able to receive, I also shared a lot of great tips, and resources on the Dream Initiative Facebook page. A lot of that information was shared over and over to reach other families in the Durham and surrounding communities that were very helpful (from the feedback received). Now that the program has come to an end for the summer, I feel good that if this program was able to help just one parent or one child, that it was a success! I truly believe that this program will leave a long-lasting mark on the participants in the community.

I am a mom of a 2nd grader, and I have seen an increase in her reading comprehension this summer as she participated in the program. With every opportunity that she was given to sharpen her skills ignited her love to read even more. We partnered a lot this summer and had fun making science videos to show participants how to complete the science projects at home, and allowed her to be social via zoom with kids her age.

I am very thankful for all of the support that I’ve been given to help me accomplish this initiative this summer. I want families to understand that dreams are not fairytales, because they can definitely come true, which is where the motto for my organization is derived, “Igniting the dreams of children, and turning it into reality”.

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