After I retired from Vanderbilt University in 2013 (following 40 years of teaching and research in Psychology and Human Development, which I loved), Amanda Goodwin, a wonderful faculty member in the Department of Teaching and Learning, asked if I’d be interested in joining the Program Committee of the East Nashville Hope Exchange.
My answer? A most definite “Yes!!” I’d heard of this remarkable organization that offers notable support for young children’s literacy development, and I was especially intrigued by its focus on offering many kinds of support for families’ active engagement in their children’s literacy learning. I joined, became a member of the Program Committee, and quickly learned that ENHE was a most remarkable program!
I have been so impressed with many, many aspects of the program over these years, but three of its remarkable strengths really stand out for me. Each has been strengthened by excellent Executive Directors, excellent teachers and staff, a most thoughtful Board of Directors, and many individuals from the broader Nashville area who are committed to supporting the ENHE program with their talents, energies, and passion for developing literacy among children in the families we serve. These elements include the following:
Monthly Saturday Workshops for parents and children throughout the school year
These Saturday sessions include discussions with parents about the many different ways of supporting their young children’s literacy development (or “learning to read and enjoying it!”) In these monthly sessions, parents learn and discuss:
- The importance of their children’s learning to read and the equal importance of parents “being there” for their children as they learn to read—so that their children know that their growing reading skills are supported and valued within their family;
- Time, when possible, for parents to read and enjoy books together with their children (drawing especially from the many books that our children are given to take home from ENHE’s summer program!);
- How to develop consistent and constructive routines with their children at home, so that they can accomplish their children’s learning goals, and focus on activities that are often so helpful in supporting the development of a positive sense of self-esteem, reading skills, and purpose as they learn to read.
Bringing adults with remarkable skills and interests from the broader Nashville community to engage with, teach, and offer great encouragement for our students’ reading and learning during our ENHE summer school program
Our guests (usually one for each day of our summer program!) engage very actively with our children in many different ways—and our students respond with great enthusiasm to the different subjects, interests, talents and information our guests share with them! Our ENHE staff and invited guests are very encouraging of our students’ questions, e.g., about their careers, how they decided to do this work, what’s most fun about it. These conversations add so much to our students’ awareness of the many options for the very interesting work to be done in this world! A sample of these include:
- Guests who bring and read and discuss children’s books, welcoming our students’ questions about the stories, encouraging discussion, and being very encouraging of students’ responses, questions, and ideas about the story(ies) they’ve heard;
- Other guests bring music, singing with our students, encouraging and answering questions about the songs, many of which have been written by our guest performers;
- Others bring dance, engaging our students in learning particular dances, and sometimes simply ‘dancing to the music’ as one wants to!
- Still others bring art, engaging our students in drawing and painting pictures—sometimes very large ones, as was the case during our 2017 Summer Program, when students’ remarkable pictures were posted for some time on fencing adjoining a major thoroughfare in East Nashville, for all driving by to see and admire!
ENHE’s focus on taking our children into the broader Nashville community to experience events and places that are very interesting, intriguing, and often inspiring! For example:
- Going to the Nashville Zoo to see and learn so much about the animals there—where they come from, what their habits are, what they like to eat, and how the young ones play when they’re not sleeping or just staying close to their Mom;
- Another sweet example: Going to a Nashville printing press company to find out from experts how newspapers are made—and meeting the people who will be printing the newspaper that our students create near the end of the Summer Program every year for our families and all others interested in our summer of work and fun!
- And one of my favorites from the past summer: Our project that engaged our students, teachers, and other wonderful helpers in the development of a Lemonade Stand for a fund-raising event in the East Nashville community. This project engaged our children in thinking about four different recipes for really good lemonade, making and testing each recipe, selecting the one they liked best, creating attractive signs (e.g., “We have Good, Cold Lemonade for sale!”), getting the signs up and posted for the event . . . and being part of the excitement of selling so much of our good, good lemonade!
Why do I support ENHE? Because just as I wanted, so many years ago, to engage in teaching and learning activities that make a positive difference for children in this world (and loved doing so!), I continue to love being engaged, supportive, and encouraging of the services and learning opportunities offered by the remarkable East Nashville Hope Exchange Program that are often life-changing for our children and for their families.