Starting a Community Literacy Project

During my final undergrad year at The Ohio State University (OSU), I wanted to leave an impression—not only within the CSD department and my school, but on the surrounding community. As our NSSLHA chapter vice president, I wanted to strengthen the relationship between our chapter and the members of our community. Luckily for us, Candice Michel, a former OSU graduate and speech-language pathologist for Columbus City Schools, was seeking a similar relationship for her elementary school students.

We joined forces and created the Columbus Literacy Committee!

Building the Columbus Literacy Committee

The goal of the Committee is to create literacy activities for kindergarteners, and travel to schools once a month to read a book aloud to these students. We also work in small groups to promote conversation and language.

Committee members are all undergrad NSSLHA students selected through an application process. To help the Committee run smoothly, we have 2 co-chairs to assist in creating our monthly activities and choose books that all levels of literacy can enjoy.

One of our biggest challenges has been making activities that are simple enough for beginner reading levels, but exciting for our most advanced readers. We decided that the best approach would be to use basic activities or games that were fun and engaging but require participation from everyone regardless of reading level. Once we found that balance, we made a variety of games that focused on different aspects of language, like:

  • Verb charades that focus on snowy day activities
  • Noun and adjective Venn diagrams
  • Fill-in-the-blank Mad Libs

Next up was scheduling classroom visits! I worked closely with Candice and the kindergarten teachers at Parsons Elementary to figure out which days would be best for visits each month. Once this was determined, committee members signed up for one of the timeslots. Trying to coordinate schedules between the teachers and our 17 members was probably the most difficult part to plan. It took a lot of communication and trial-and-error, but after the first month we got the hang of it.

Nothing but Positive Feedback

Working with Columbus City Schools has been a match made in heaven! We’ve received nothing but positive feedback. Our students obtain first-hand experience with elementary-aged kids, gaining foundational knowledge before entering grad school.

And we’re simultaneously providing kindergarteners with additional language and literacy enrichment! They love when their “special visitors” come to see them and look forward to the games they get to play. The teachers love the program too—even saying that they wish we could visit once a week, not once a month!

Tips to Start Your Own Community Outreach Program

If you’re interested in starting your own community outreach program, I have a few tips to get you started:

  • Contact organizations and schools in your community that you believe you could benefit from your NSSLHA members’ passion and expertise.
  • Reach out to faculty you interact with every day. One of them may know of an organization in need of a helping hand!
  • Reach out to local speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and/or local alumni of your program/chapter.
  • NSSLHA chapters and their members are a valuable community resource—market yourself that way!

Watching the excitement on these kindergartners faces and the relationships that have built between them and our NSSLHA members has been the best part of this experience. It’s truly sparked a passion in literacy for me. Although I’m graduating in May and will no longer be the head of the program I’ve come to love, I can’t wait to come back in future years to and see how the committee has grown.

I hope you’re all inspired by our chapter’s success and create a community outreach program of your own!

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