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Gold Award Girl Scout, Elaine

Gold Award Girl Scout, Elaine

Learning and Loving Literacy Bags

Elaine likes learning new things by helping people, especially children. As a high school student and member of the Technical Honor Society, Elaine understands and values the importance of education, specifically literacy. For her Gold Award project, Elaine knew she wanted to combine her love of learning and helping children. She decided to connect with her local elementary school and discovered through research and discussions with five kindergarten teachers, other K-4 teachers, and the K-8 librarians that only 9% of kindergarteners at the school met the end of grade reading standard. Upon further research, Elaine discovered that children who are literate develop bigger vocabularies, become better readers, and are more likely to succeed in school. Reading also fosters creativity and improves communication skills, which play a vital role in social interaction and future career success. When researching why reading levels were so low at the school, Elaine discovered that many children fall behind in their literacy levels due to lack of access to books at home as well as other literacy resources, such as public libraries. With all of this information, Elaine decided the best way to address literacy would be to create literacy bags. Working with the school teachers and librarians, Elaine designed 54 themed literacy bags for kindergarten students to check out weekly at the school library. Elaine knew from her research that increasing literacy rates involve more than just reading books, literacy needs to be interactive and fun. Her bags included books for families to read to their children as well as leveled books for students to read to their families and an interactive academic activity.

Elaine’s goal was to enhance student literacy at home, outside of school hours, which she would measure her impact through Fountas and Pinnell data, observations by the teachers and librarians, as well as parent feedback forms. A third of the way through her project, Elaine revisited the initial data she had collected and compared it against the data collected after the distribution of the literacy bags, and realized that reading standards in kindergarteners had increased by 22%! Due to the pandemic and forced remote learning, the bags could not be checked out by families, however, Elaine was able to pivot her project and scheduled weekly reading time with students via zoom to ensure they were continuing to receive literacy resources and opportunities outside of classroom time.

Elaine’s project continues because now that schools are partially reopened, the bags have been given to the kindergarten classes and continue to circulate through the students. Additionally, the attitudes, excitement, and enthusiasm about literacy have changed in the students and families. Elaine noted that “the students have a greater love for literacy because of the bags so they will continue to enhance their literacy skills by reading at home in the future. The love of literacy will continue.”  

Elaine says the most important thing she learned during her project was “I can persevere and not give up when things seem hopeless. It [the pandemic] was not going to prevent me from reaching my goal of enhancing literacy at home.”