Readers’ Theater Opening Night

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAmanda Kohn

Sponsorship Director

Save the Children U.S. Programs

October 13, 2017

As the sun starts to set behind the mountains, I remember that I left my Dramamine in the suitcase.  There is no cellphone signal on these winding roads taking me down and around sharp curves. As such, I’m not able to search my iPhone for a Walgreens. And come to think of it, I haven’t really seen any kind of store in the last twenty minutes. Did I mention that I’m in America? This road I’m navigating (and stomaching) is taking me to an elementary school nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, in one of the poorest counties in the United States.

To be clear, this community is poor in resources, but certainly not in spirit.

As we pull into the parking lot, we see a “Welcome Save the Children” message on the school’s billboard. The lot is already full of cars, and little ones are tugging at the hands of their grown-ups to get through the doors. It’s now dark, and Thursday. Oh to have that much enthusiasm at the end of the week! We stroll in behind them, our arms loaded down with boxes of books donated from Scholastic, who partners with U.S. Programs to get more books into the hands of the children we serve. The closer we get to the library, the louder the conversational hum gets. I thought this was going to be a small family night for first graders.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater at their sponsorship supported school in Tennessee.

We are greeted by a woman wearing a Save the Children shirt. She presents an air of leadership, so I assume she is the Principal. “Welcome to our school! We are so glad y’uns could make it out. The kids are so excited to do their Readers’ Theater. Everybody’s here,” she smiled and added with a Southern twang.

The library is packed. Parents, grandparents, babies, children convincingly dressed as animals, other non-animal children… We found a corner of the room, and the woman who greeted us turned her attention to addressing the crowd. She introduces the Save the Children visitors, and proceeds to enthusiastically share the school’s sponsorship program plan with the community.

She remembers to introduce herself, “Oh, and I’m Belinda, the Sponsorship Community Liaison.”  She’s not the Principal, but an extremely motivated and proud community member who works with sponsorship. I’m floored. And thrilled!

This was the first Literacy Family Engagement night for the school, paid for by Save the Children sponsorship, of many more planned for the rest of the year. This school joined us as a new partner, trying out this new program seeking to reach more children, and empower more communities to come together to help kids be successful at school. This night was the culmination of months of planning between the school, parents, members of the community and Save the Children. For me, it felt like the culmination of four years of my life as the Director of Sponsorship in the United States. Seeing this program play out before my very eyes was more gratifying than I can explain. But I’ll try.

Children performing at the Readers’ Theatre.
Children performing at the Readers’ Theater.

You see, we’ve always been a little different here in the U.S. Poverty looks very dissimilar internationally, and the needs of children overseas are certainly more obvious at a glance. This is not the case in rural America. Addressing the impact poverty makes on children here is not always providing basic needs, installing running water, or building a school. Here, it’s more subtle. The road out of poverty is more winding and curved, but after what I’ve seen tonight, I think we’ve found some capable navigators. Right there they stood, packed into a library wearing tails, whiskers and duck feet, reading aloud to their families and community while acting out the story.

These first graders will be navigating their way right out of the hills of have-not, around the twists and turns of grade-level reading, and upward to the peaks of their own success. In the U.S. a child’s chances of breaking the cycle of poverty are only as good as the quality of their education. Similar to my car-sick journey to the school, the road out of poverty is long and daunting when you’re not equipped with the things you need for the journey. But these kids have something special – this community, and more than 21,000 sponsors in the U.S. providing support along the way. Thanks to sponsors, these students have new books to read and activities like the Readers’ Theater to participate in, getting both kids and parents excited about education and the future.

Despite the darkness peaking behind those smoky mountains, the future is looking really bright for kids in this small, rural town.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

The Sky’s the Limit for Sarabeth

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Rebecca Poehler

Program Operations Manager, U.S. Program

Save the Children U.S Program

September 20, 2017

In rural Kentucky where 26 percent of children live in poverty, children face many challenges at home and in school. But with help from our sponsors, our sponsorship program is giving children in the United States the skills they need to succeed, and the opportunity for a brighter future.

Sarabeth just started second grade and loves participating in the sponsorship program at her school. When asked how reading makes her feel, Sarabeth answered, “It makes me smart”. You can find her reading her favorite book, Dinosaurs Don’t Eat Broccoli, or dreaming of going to college and becoming a doctor when she grows up.

Sarabeth participates in sponsorship programs which help improve her reading skills.
Sarabeth participates in sponsorship programs which help improve her reading skills.

Sarabeth didn’t always love reading. She was referred to Save the Children because her reading assessment scores were low and she was falling behind her peers. Since joining the program and getting the support she needs, Sarabeth has shown great improvements in more ways than just one. Her teacher, Mrs. Collins, reports that she has seen a difference in her reading comprehension, spelling and vocabulary skills. “I’ve seen much improvement in Sarabeth and look forward to seeing more at the end of this year,” she says.

Sarahbeth has also developed confidence and social skills thanks to the sponsorship program. Her mother says, “I have noticed that she is becoming more confident and more willing to speak out.” Sarabeth’s mother says that her daughter now loves going to school since joining the program. “Save the Children is a great program! Sarabeth has made new friends, improved her schoolwork and has become more confident. It also allows her to be more socially active than ‘regular’ school does. It’s good to see programs like this help our kids so much. Thank you!”

Sarabeth proudly shows her drawing.
Sarabeth proudly shows her drawing.

Sarabeth isn’t the only child who has made great strides since joining sponsorship. Mrs. Jarvis, a Save the Children program coordinator, sees the difference in so many children who are developing a love of reading. “I am encouraging students to choose books based on interest and reading ability. We have book talks that students enjoy and are beneficial to them in understanding what they’ve read.  As a classroom teacher, that was not always possible as time was precious and there was always more to do than could be accomplished in a day! The Save the Children program is allowing children to develop a love of reading and allowing me to rediscover my love of reading also.”

Sarabeth and so many children like her in Kentucky are making great progress, thanks to sponsors like you. We’re excited to see where Sarabeth goes next – it seems like the sky’s the limit!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Breaking Out of Her Shell

Author Portrait_Sharon Johnson
Sharon Johnson

Community Liaison

Save the Children U.S. Programs

April 13, 2017

Dayla is in the 1st grade and participates in our sponsorship and in-school literacy programs in her town in Mississippi. Dayla is normally quiet but gets very excited when she hears from her sponsors. Reading the letters and drafting her replies have helped to expand her vocabulary and improve her reading skills. She loves that her sponsor encourages her to do well in school.

1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.
1st grade student Dayla is gaining confidence at school thanks to sponsorship.

This is Dayla’s first year being enrolled in school and Save the Children programs have been a big help with that transition. Since participating, she’s became more eager to go to school and especially to attend the programs. She has begun talking and participating more in class. Dayla has also been paired with a Foster Grandparent which provides another supportive relationship. And we all know how important supportive, caring relationships are to children’s development. Dayla is excited to improve her reading skills and has made many new friends in the programs.

Dayla enjoying reading a story.
Dayla enjoying reading a story.

Dayla’s self-esteem has improved dramatically since she began school. She has become much more confident and has a positive outlook about school. Her mom is pleased with her progress. Her mom shared, “Save the Children has really been a great help for my child. My child used to be very quiet and not eager to read, but now she’s participating more in class and improving her reading skills.” Dayla has had a successful first year of school thanks to the support of sponsorship and in-school literacy programs.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

 

A Recent Graduate Joins Our Mission

Fransheshca

Fransheska Quijada

Staff Member

Panama

August 17, 2015

 

My name is Fransheska Quijada and I grew up in El Salvador, a country located in the middle of Central America. I went to the U.S. in August of 2012 to obtain my Masters in Public Policy at the University of Kentucky (UK). I wanted a graduate program that included field practice because I wanted to prepare myself to become a specialist in the planning, execution, and management of public education and community development initiatives. It was through my Master’s internship program that I had the opportunity to join the Head Start team at Save the Children the following year.

Boys

Christian and Robert enjoying U.S. Programs

Through my internship with Save the Children, I had the chance to work with a dynamic, multidisciplinary, and passionate group of people. At the end of the day their mission is, “To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives”. Everyone involved with the U.S. sponsorship team, from the Director in Lexington, KY to the sponsorship liaisons operating in schools nation-wide, is committed to enhancing children’s lives in the present and creating a brighter future for them in the years to come.

Hearing the sponsorship team talk about sponsors with such reverence and appreciation truly helped me understand that it is the sponsors who are indeed the driving force of bringing positive change to the lives of the children we work with. Without them, Save the Children’s reach would not be nearly as vast or impactful as it is today.

Hanging

Christian and Anabella enjoying U.S. Programs

I still recall when Amanda Kohn, Director of U.S. Programs Sponsorship, came to UK and spoke to us about Save the Children’s work. I could feel the passion and commitment that she felt for her job. Amanda spoke about her team, coworkers, their work environment, and the high level of commitment that all of them have. It was in that moment I knew that I wanted to work for such an organization. A few short months later, I was the newest member of their team.

Currently I am living in Panama, another country located in Central America, working to transform communities through educational and health projects. My experience working with the sponsorship team at Save the Children helped me realize that when dynamic, positive, and passionate people get together to change the world, they can do it!

Have you had a similar inspirational moment in your life? Think of a time when you worked with a group of committed individuals who were passionate about the project at hand. We would love to hear some of the ways you have seen dedicated work pay off in your community, home, or work environment. Here at Save the Children sponsorship we believe loving what you do is very important!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Spread the Love of Reading to Your Grade-Schooler with These Books (ages 9-12)

This is the third post in our “Love to Read” series which highlights fun and educational books that will help your child develop into an avid reader! Be sure to check back later in the week for recommendations for older children.

Ajla

Ajla Grozdanic, Manager, Marketing and Communications, U.S. Programs

Washington, D.C.

February 2, 2012


This is the third post in our "Love to Read" series which highlights fun and educational books that will help your child develop into an avid reader!

Only about one third of American fourth-graders are proficient in reading, according to the results from Reading_by_level_age_9-12 the 2011 National Assessment of Education Progress. Make sure your grade-schooler reads at or above grade level by going to the library together every week. Start by checking out a few of these 10 tried-and-true book selections for your child (but don’t forget to lead by example and take out a novel or two for yourself):

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
  • The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  • The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Looking for other ways to spread the love? Get your limited-edition Valentine's Day cards and support Save the Children’s education programs in the United States. Learn more about our Love to Read, Read to Live campaign.