Five educators from the Kyrgyz Republic were recently in Springfield through the US Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program to learn more about the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation’s Reading Success by 4th Grade! initiative. The delegation included the director of a production studio that created the first Kyrgyz language educational cartoon for children, the director of a children’s library, the director of early education at a children’s home, and two specialists from the Ministry of Education of Kyrgyzstan.
The Visitors began their stay in western Massachusetts with a trip to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. Although previously unfamiliar with Carle’s work they explored exhibits on his art and techniques, Latino folk tales, and illustrator Robert R. Zakanitch. They also asked questions of staff in the museum’s reading library and art studio about techniques for encouraging literacy in young children. The World Affairs Council gave each Visitor a Russian translation of Carle’s book Mr. Seahorse.
In the evening they visited the home of Past Council President Ken Furst and his wife Karen at their home in Wilbraham for an informal dessert reception with members and friends of the Council. This was a warm and informal opportunity to learn more about one another.
Monday was a full day, beginning with a breakfast meeting with Sally Fuller to hear about the history of the Reading Success by 4th Grade! initiative and the commitment of the Davis Foundation and other funders to making a real difference in the lives of children in Springfield by working with parents, teachers and others to strengthen the literacy rate.
After breakfast they walked over to western Massachusetts’s public television affiliate WGBY, got a tour of the station and then went over to the Gerena Community School to see the North End Center for Literacy and Learning, a key part of a WGBY’s Ready To Learn: North End project.
At lunchtime the group reunited with Sally Fuller at the Springfield Housing Authority‘s Sullivan apartments community room to hear about Talk/Read/Succeed!, a family-school-community framework to organize engagement with families living at two Springfield Housing Authority developments. Representatives from the SHA, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, and the Behavioral Health Network all spoke about their efforts. Sally Fuller gave each of the Visitors a copy of the Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss and a Cat in the Hat tee shirt.
The last meetings of the day took place at the Springfield City Library. After a stroll through the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, the group toured the library, heard about programs to support early childhood literacy. They then met with members of the Early Literacy Coalition, including representatives from Head Start and Home City Families, who discussed ways the Coalition encourages daycare providers to promote and support literacy in the children they care for.
Early reviews from the Visitors and the Professional Resources they met with in Springfield were all glowing. The IVLP continues to be a wonderful opportunity for folks in western Massachusetts to show off how we try to tackle challenges and to learn things from others from around the world.