By Jenna Nguyen | Manager, National Strategic Partnerships
Just over five years ago Calhoun Intermediate School District (Calhoun ISD) brought Raising A Reader (RAR) to the Battle Creek, Michigan community. The program has grown from 20 sites to 90, reaching 6,030 children. While the main focus of Calhoun ISD’s RAR program is reaching children 0-5 years old, they have expanded to serve children through the second grade in after school programs.
Calhoun ISD serves a large number of Burmese families who have moved to the area in the last few years as refugees along with a large number of Japanese families who are in Battle Creek for temporary work assignments. In fact, with RAR’s help Calhoun ISD has been able to provide a selection of books published in both English and Burmese in addition to RAR books that have been translated with the help of local Burmese organizations. The Burmese text is added to the books on clear labels which are adhered to each page next to the English text. These Burmese books are now rotated within the majority of locations.
The amazing work being done in Battle Creek has truly been that of a community effort.
A local Lion’s Club hosts an annual spaghetti dinner to benefit RAR in their community. It was at this dinner that a gentleman from the club made an introduction of the RAR coordinator to his wife, a bus aide for a special needs school bus. This connection led the students on her bus to now receive the RAR program.
A mother, whose two daughters participated in RAR, was such a fan of the program that she joined the team at Calhoun ISD to help further the work being done in the community. Her oldest daughter received a special award for reading more books than anyone else in her class, while her youngest daughter delights in reading her memorized favorite “The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and The Big Hungry Bear.” The staff at Calhoun ISD feels so strongly about RAR, not only because of the community involvement and family enjoyment, but because they have four years of data proving that it is having a positive and beneficial impact for the families of over 6,000 children.
The community involvement in Battle Creek has helped strengthen the integrity of RAR and maximize its reach. Calhoun Intermediate School District strives to reach all families and cultures in the community and look forward to what the future holds.
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