Children’s Literacy Network Celebrates 30 Years of Service

Children’s Literacy Network (CLN) celebrated its 30 year anniversary recently and remains committed to its mission, according to Executive Director Elizabeth Durant, “to design and implement literacy-based programs to provide equitable opportunities for children to develop a love of reading and books.”

Durant has been with CLN for five years and further shared the impact the organization has had on families and children in the area, along with its many successful programs.

“We are a volunteer-based nonprofit agency established in 1991, dedicated to closing the book and reading achievement gap to keep low-income students from falling further behind their more affluent peers,” Durant described. “Children’s Literacy Network (CLN) accomplishes this goal through innovative programming at the early childhood and school-age levels.”

She further elaborated upon who CLN serves.

“The participants CLN serves throughout all its programs come from Washtenaw County,” Durant explained. “Washtenaw County is the eighth most economically segregated metropolitan area in the country and ranks 80 out of 83 counties in Michigan for income inequality. The 35-point gap on third-grade reading tests between black and white students signals that this is an urgent time for schools and community organizations to work together for change to ensure that children’s success in school is not defined by their zip codes or their race.”

CLN has had a major positive impact on families and children in the area according to Durant.

“For 30 years CLN has provided literacy programs to 400,000 young readers in Washtenaw County, distributing more than a million dollars in new high-quality books to low-income children, creating home libraries for families who need them most,” Durant stated. “CLN’s services are useful and empowering for parents, and critical to narrowing the achievement gap between students of different neighborhoods and resources. CLN is committed to meeting ongoing literacy needs and is dynamic and determined to work with community partners to meet the emergent and urgent needs.”

According to Durant, the programs that CLN offers are comprehensive and diverse:

  • BookPALS” is the first and only program of its kind in the country. This successful program takes inspiration from the well-known concept of “pen-pals” as well as from an effective teaching technique, “PALS,” or Peer Assisted Learning Strategies. Linking these two concepts provides BookPALS with its unique dual focus: to successfully promote the development of students’ reading proficiency skills while at the same time building bridges between students who come from very different socioeconomic communities.
  • Read to Kids” targets and follows the most vulnerable children in Washtenaw County from Early Head Start preschool through first grade, providing books and literacy activities to families and classrooms. 
  • “FLIP: Family Literacy Interactive Program” based on Nell Duke’s family literacy model, targets families with children in preschool through fifth grade. FLIP events are curriculum-based interactive nights where students and parents move through stations and work together on evidence-based literacy activities. Included is a parent workshop, a healthy dinner, a take-home food “Power Pack,” door prizes, and a book for every child. 
  • CLNReads” reduces “summer-slide” and extends reading over the summer for 1st-5th graders. Students are enrolled in the program, receive four books, and are registered in the interactive website CLNReads.com during the final weeks of school. They log reading minutes, earn virtual rewards, and earn new books and prizes mailed directly to their homes all summer long. 
  1. • “Staying In Closer Touch” (SICT), links incarcerated parents with their children through reading and other family literacy practices, with the goal of nurturing parent-child relationships and fostering a love of books and literacy. The program builds a connection between parent and child where one may otherwise seem impossible and provides new exposure to high-quality diverse books which speak to them and their experiences, building home libraries and positive bonds that will last a lifetime and prepare families for reentry!
  2. “Literacy Pack Project” has provided 6000 books and literacy resources to families receiving emergency food supplies during the COVID-19 crisis, to help mitigate educational losses. The project will continue to provide books and resources to families during possible upcoming school closures in the 2021-2022 school year.

Durant also outlined ways that the community can help through volunteer opportunities with CLN.

“In the past three years, we have added over 30 new volunteers to our already strong base of 60. These include FLIP night volunteers, SICT volunteers, and BookPALS reading mentor volunteers,” Durant described. “CLN has also developed a new group of volunteers called CLN Ambassadors. These volunteers are integral to the success of CLN. They are a diverse group who bring many talents to the organization and conduct outreach, program support, and funding inquiries. CLN is always looking for new volunteers, and for people in the community to run ‘new’ book drives for us! Just reach out to Derra at: derra@childrensliteracynetwork.org and she will sign you up for one of our many opportunities! In fact, we are looking for BookPALS volunteers right now!”

CLN fundraises to support its efforts from various sources, including utilizing the University of Michigan Ross Business School Consulting Group to research different revenue streams. The CLN Board of Directors has also designated a board-restricted cash reserve to ensure long-term financial stability. 

“CLN is engaging in a larger community investment portfolio through an aggressive corporate outreach effort,” Durant disclosed. “Corporate donations have tripled, and our goal is to have that number grow by another 50% in 2022, by reaching out to even more local businesses.”

CLN also hosts public events.

According to CLN, “CLN just celebrated our 30th year anniversary with two events. The first was purely a ‘thank you’ to our valued donors, volunteers, and partners,” Durant explained. “The event featured Jenni Zimmer as our guest of honor. Jenni was one of the original founders of CLN. The second event celebrated on September 9th was a fundraiser for our thirtieth year; A Night For the Books and was held at the downtown Ann Arbor Farmers Market. It was a whimsical event with a strolling supper, illustrators, and featured Mr. B on the piano. The Mayor of Ann Arbor even made an appearance to show his support!”

To donate or to learn more ways to support CLN, visit their website.

Children’s Literacy Network (734) 255-3997 http://www.childrensliteracynetwork.org/