Johnny Morgan, Johnson, Juanita
Reading to the Heart, the Louisiana sustainable community project, is a five-year literacy program in its final year, but in search of ways to continue helping students increase reading skills.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored grant project, a partnership among the LSU AgCenter and local agencies, targets youth and families in Rapides and Madison parishes.
The program’s goal is to increase independent reading for youth of all achievement levels, while improving attitudes toward books and reading, said LSU AgCenter 4-H specialist Juanita Johnson, who coordinates the program.
“Our program is a comprehensive, research-based, leisure-time reading program designed to enhance youth reading habits during non-school time and to help parents organize literacy-rich home environments,” Johnson said.
The program focuses on providing youth with books and other educational resources and engaging them in motivational reading activities to improve reading skills and workforce readiness skills.
These skills include basic communications, technology and problem-solving through increased parent/guardian and youth interactive literacy activities in the home and other learning settings.
The reading-intervention program gives fourth-grade students books and other learning aids to encourage them to develop a love for reading, said Johnson.
A recent meeting of program leaders developed the fifth-year curriculum and made plans for continuing the program after the grant ends.
Education professionals, community leaders and faith-based groups interested in the future of the initiative were invited for their input on how the program can continue.
“We wanted to discuss ways of expanding our 4-H workforce preparation project by combining and integrating the reading literacy component into the workforce prep project,” Johnson said. This will give young people and parents a better idea of the career-development process when they are looking at their specific career interests.
“Literacy and workforce preparation are already included in the 4-H curriculum, but we want to expand on that by adding a reading component,” she said.
As a result of this meeting, the team decided to develop information pages for each of the 16 career clusters as recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Johnson said these resources will be posted on the LSU AgCenter’s website later this year and available to the public.
“This will be phase one of the multi-phase rollout of the reading literacy/workforce preparation curriculum,” she said.
The second phase will include the development of teacher resources, as well as a parenting education component in the area of career development.
“Workforce prep has been a part of Louisiana’s 4-H youth development program for a number of years,” Johnson said. “We are just adding new pieces to the current program.”