Raising Readers

Friday, March 23, 2012
Trista Peitzman, educator at Iowa Public Television, made the presentation of the Learning Center to The Bridge at the St. John church location and the Seneca Center. The IPTV Learning Centers include books, activity pages, educational DVDs.

Iowa Public Television has launched two new Learning Centers in Storm Lake to help area families spend time reading and learning together.

The new Learning Centers, launched in collaboration with The Bridge of Storm Lake, are located at Seneca Center and St. John's Lutheran Church. Seneca Center is a neighborhood center of The Bridge, and the organization's adult classes are held in St. John's facility. IPTV Raising Readers Learning Centers each consist of a cart of age-appropriate children's materials such as books, activity books, toys, puzzles, and more. IPTV currently has 40 learning centers located throughout Iowa and now six in Storm Lake.

"We're pleased to expand these IPTV Learning Centers to more locations in Iowa," said Terry Rinehart, director of educational services at Iowa Public Television. "Through this partnership, families can spend more time together reading books, watching excellent children's programs that support early reading skills like recognizing letters and sounds, and learning early math skills."

Volunteer Bethany Beier works with Awa, 5. Awa's mom is currently taking ESL classes provided by The Bridge. / Photos by Lorri Glawe

These two new Learning Centers will promote early literacy and math learning to both parents and children. Many of the clients served by The Bridge are new immigrants who are learning English, the American school system, and how to live in the United States. While the parents are working on developing their English skills at The Bridge, trained volunteers of The Bridge will be working with the children. They will use The Electric Company Extended Learning Program with the children along with other PBS KIDS programming.

These efforts are part of Iowa Public Television's Ready To Learn initiative, in partnership with PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Ready To Learn Partnership. Nationally, Ready To Learn is focused heavily on developing programs and resources that help young children build strong pre-reading, reading, and early math skills using scientifically-based research to guide teaching strategies.

In the pilot communities of Waterloo and Storm Lake, Iowa Public Television is developing new activities designed to help parents and educators in their quest to help children arrive at school prepared for success from the very beginning. Iowa Public Television has partnered with several community and statewide organizations to ensure these efforts are successful.

Trista Peitzman, educator at Iowa Public Television made the presentation and are excited about the new partnership with the Bridge.

It was by chance that she found The Bridge, searching for other groups to benefit from Iowa Public Television's Learning Centers. She has already learned a great deal about The Bridge.

"We've enjoyed having Jay and Annie Dahlhauser help us work with the community and helping us making things better for the kids," Peitzman said.

A Learning Center at the location where adult ESL classes are taught is a perfect match. The classes are held Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, two (sometimes three) times each of those days. While some of the students have children in school, others have small children. Class time in the past has had to be reduced in the summers because students did not have a place for their children to go.

It will take additional volunteers but once all the kinks are worked out, children will be able to go to the classes with their parents and enjoy reading and learning as well. The book cart contains about 200 children's books and in addition, IPTV provided a TV, which will allow children to watch the literacy-rich programs on IPTV, a DVD player and educational DVDs.

"We want to promote literacy," Jay said.

Angie Snyder, coordinator for the ESL program, commented that it is "exciting" to have the new books available. For the students,, though they are adults, they are just learning to read as well. The books can be used by them in class, helping them improve their reading skills right along with the little ones. Together they can develop that love for reading and share with each other while at the same time share bonding time.

Snyder said that a large donation has been received from Agrium of Early as well, allowing for an addition of some 600 non-fiction books with topics such as math, science and citizenship.

Getting a book in each person's hands, Snyder said, is a wonderful thing and with these donations, that will be possible.

The ESL classes are a sign of promise for the students that take part in them. The students are very diverse - some have had some schooling, some have not, but all want to learn.

Lussia Wediye of Sudan came into the class not being able to even write her name. through a lot of hard work, she is now writing sentences. "I have been happy to learn," she said, receiving help on this particular day from retired elementary teacher June Bryan.

Another volunteer in the ESL program, Alan Mitchell, was working with Ba Blu who came to Storm Lake from Burma.

"I like learning. It's so important for me to learn and improve my English to stay in the U.S. We have good teachers!"

Annie Dahlhauser stressed that while it is important for the students to learn English at the classes, building relationships with each other is even more important.

IPTV's motto is, "Turn anytime into learning time and help raise a reader." The Bridge, its volunteers and participants are doing just that.

To volunteer at The Bridge's ESL program or help with the children of those attending contact Angie Snyder at 712-660-8089.

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