VERO BEACH ― On March 14, The Learning Alliance held its third annual Moonshot Literacy Lane. The event supports the Moonshot Moment goal of having 90 percent of Indian River County children read on grade-level by third grade.

Literacy Lane was a walk to 13 stops along Vero Beach’s Main Street. Volunteer reading captains accompanied the children.

At each site, poster-size pages from the event’s featured story were on display, with discussion questions to improve the reader’s vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking skills.

The adventure began and ended at the Indian River County Main Library, where the first and last pages of the story were posted. The walk promoted the importance of reading and spending time with family, as the children get some exercise and give their brains a workout.

Led by retired Rosewood Elementary School Principal Deborah Dillon, the children and their families walked along 14th Ave., stopping to read and discuss pages of the story “Thank You, Omu,” by Oge Mora. The story is about the importance of community.

“Being an educator, you know that birth to five are the key years when a child develops the language and vocabulary,” said Ms. Dillon. “Exposure to books at an early age is key to making them better readers and, eventually, better citizens in our community.”

The 3/4-mile walk included stops at Parisian Hostess, Cultural Council of Indian River County, Sean Ryan Pub, Joey’s Downtown Dapper Barbershop, Main Street Vero Beach, Island Images Professional Photography Studio, Tea and Chi, The Learning Alliance, Rourke Publishing, Edgewood Eatery, Heritage Center, and Italian Kitchen.

The group returned to the library to read the final pages of the book and then enjoyed moon pies and apple pies in honor of Pi Day, as they discussed their literacy adventure.

Accompanying the children were The Learning Alliance’s Moonshot reading captains, volunteers who promote literacy. The approach embeds literacy volunteers within the community. It provides them with books to share with the children who live nearby, thereby encouraging family engagement and modeling reading.

“Thirty-five years of educating students, working with parents, and the community has afforded me the wisdom to recognize a pivotal moment in literacy through the Moonshot reading captain grassroots initiative,” said Margaret Ingram, lead reading captain.

The reading captains provide literacy support and connect families to other community resources, including the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative, Healthy Start Coalition, and Treasure Coast Community Health.

“The idea of empowering trusted people in the neighborhood to serve as the go-to early literacy support person for families will help alleviate some of the stress in the home,” said Ms. Ingram. “Parents are willing to help their children but lack the resources to aid them in creating successful readers. Having books embedded in the community will ensure that the children will have appropriate grade-level reading books.”

The project is a partnership between The Learning Alliance, the School District of Indian River County, the main library, and the downtown Vero Beach business district.

The pages of the featured book remained posted through April. Maps were available for download at moonshotmoment.org so that anyone could participate.

Volunteer Candice Broom participated in the literacy walk with her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Jacobi, who already enjoys reading.

“I can see it on her face, if I get a new book she’s ready,” said Ms. Broom. “She wants to turn the page and point out different things in the book she recognizes. I think it’s really important to start early.”

“Someone can always go out and drop off books, but it doesn’t make it as personal. To engage with people, it’s a love that you can feel, that people care about you and your child’s well being. When you engage with people, it makes them feel loved, and that’s very important for growth.”

“I believe this program will bring back kitchen table conversations whereby literacy will become the universal language,” said Ms. Ingram. “This model will serve as a new paradigm for early literacy in the community.”

For more information, visit thelearningalliance.org or moonshotmoment.org.

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