When asked how things are going in their community, Debra Lanham, Director of Research and Development at Down East Partnership for Children (DEPC) said, “We literally have adapted everything! As I’m sure everyone else has.”
Adaptation is the current reality for community-based initiatives working hard to support children and families during the pandemic, including NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) communities. Twin Counties Read to Rise is the collaborative CGLR effort taking place in Nash and Edgecombe counties, led by DEPC. Since the quarantine started, Campaign partners across the state have been in full gear innovating to address the needs of their communities, such as connecting families to resources to support basic needs and children’s learning at home, reimagining book distribution and summer programs, and shifting services online.
Below are a sample of DEPC and Twin Counties Read to Rise’s innovations to inspire you:
- Virtual Gardening Club: DEPC’s has adapted their afterschool gardening program to be a virtual Garden Club hosted on Facebook and YouTube. “The virtual Garden Club has allowed us to reach out to various community members and have them be the guest presenter for the day, teaching a craft, gardening activity, recipe or reading a story,” says Lanham. “It also includes a contest for those who like or comment on the presentation to be entered into a raffle for a Junior Chef Set or Junior Gardening set.”
- Online Playgroups: Kaleidoscope Play and Learn Groups have continued online for caregivers and children ages 0-5 to encourage hands on learning at home, provide social connections and equip caregivers with resources. In addition to meeting virtually, group leaders provide caregivers with weekly emails containing a themed craft, book, coloring sheet and song/finger play that they can do at home with their child. Leaders also make weekly calls to offer social support, assess family needs and provide parenting education. Caregivers are encouraged to access family support information on DEPC’s website and via video clips on social media. For school readiness, playgroups have their own Pinterest Board where parents can pin their ideas for crafts, learning activities, healthy recipes, etc. to prepare for their next virtual group.
- Nutrition Education at Childcare Centers: Prior to COVID-19, DEPC staff did weekly TA visits to FEED childcare centers to facilitate classroom taste tests and integrate farm to childcare activities into the curriculum. In March, going to do taste tests with children and providing fresh produce to parents in carpool pickup lines were no longer options. The solution—weekly food tasting boxes delivered directly from Golden Organic Farms to childcare centers (that remained open under emergency guidelines), along with electronic lesson plans for preschool teachers including instructions on how to conduct taste tests and easy recipes to add to the weekly menu. The first box contained farm fresh carrots seen below.
- Watch Parties and Books to Support Literacy: DEPC staff have hosted several watch parties for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, including readings by staff and Dolly Parton herself. They have also continued to partner with local Reach Out and Read clinics to ensure they are supplied with books, and with Braswell Library to host their Raising a Reader program on Facebook.
- Planning for School and Summer: DEPC has transitioned several meetings online, including a recent Transition Alignment Committee Meeting which laid out plans for how to recruit PreK and Kindergarten students to register and get ready for school over the summer. They are also meeting with summer learning providers by Zoom to help plan their Summer Learning and Summer Feeding program. The program will look differently this year depending on what the school system decides and how COVID-19 progresses, but—like everything else—they are committed to adapting accordingly and providing support to families wherever they can.