Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

March 21, 2005

Whitworth Education Students, Faculty Team with Starbucks,
Launch Summer Program to Strengthen Literacy Skills among Local Children

Whitworth School of Education students not only attend classes in which they learn how to teach children the "Three Rs" -- reading, writing and arithmetic; these teachers-in-training, along with School of Education faculty, are translating their how-to knowledge into can-do action by improving children's literacy through several innovative projects and programs they are launching in the Spokane area.

"Literacy is the heart of education," says Whitworth Professor of Education Betty Fry Williams. "In the early school years a child learns to read, but by the third grade a child reads to learn and must have mastered print in order to gain skills in all the other subjects. By high school, approximately 85 percent of what we learn is through reading. For children with learning challenges, a reading gap can develop that makes success in school more and more difficult."

To address widespread literacy issues among children, the Whitworth School of Education will conduct its inaugural Whitworth Literacy Center Summer Program, June 20-July 28, for children with learning problems. The program is the primary component of a new literacy initiative the college is establishing.

Along with the founding of the new center, Whitworth elementary-education students and area Starbucks coffeehouses are partnering to hold book-night events for children and their parents. Education students will also host a scholastic book fair April 4-8 at Whitworth to raise funds to purchase books for Holmes Elementary School students.

The Whitworth Literacy Center is a community-outreach program that provides affordable summer school for children who have academic goals on their individualized education programs, who are learning English as a second language, or who are at risk of academic failure. The summer program is open to children ages six to 12 years old who have difficulty with language, reading, spelling, writing and/or math.

"The center will provide a service that is either unavailable in school districts or very limited in scope in terms of what districts currently provide," says Assistant Professor of Education Lisa Laurier. "All children experience summer regression in their learning; the target population for this center experiences regression to an even greater degree. It is critical that the needs of these students are addressed during the summer in addition to the regular school year."

During morning or afternoon sessions, Melva Pryor, a certified special-education teacher, will manage classroom activities, and Whitworth Associate Professor of Education Chang-nam Lee, Ph.D., will supervise the instructors, who are graduate and undergraduate students earning special-education endorsement through Whitworth. Participants will be assessed and placed in small groups according to their ability levels, and will receive instruction in areas including reading and spelling mastery, connecting math concepts, and reasoning and writing.

"We believe the Whitworth Literacy Center will give children the necessary boost to enhance their learning," Williams says. "At the same time, our Whitworth students will be applying what they've learned about research in reading and individualized instruction in a way that benefits the community."

A completed application and advance registration are required. For application materials for the summer 2005 program, please call (509) 777-3228 or (509) 777-3229. Applications and deposit fees are due to Whitworth by May 6.

Funding of the literacy center is a primary issue coordinators are working to address. Parents are currently expected to pay tuition, but Whitworth, in partnership with Starbucks, hopes to offer scholarship assistance to families to reduce the cost of tuition.

"We have estimated that it will cost $300 per child per eight-week summer session," Laurier says. "We need to purchase a lot of materials, including two published text series and disposable materials such as paper and pencils."

To help raise funds for the center and to provide another opportunity for children and their parents to engage in reading, Whitworth elementary-education students are partnering with Starbucks to hold book-night sessions at area Starbucks coffeehouses.

For each book night, Whitworth students select an outstanding piece of children's literature, which they read to children and their parents. After the reading, Starbucks employees lead the children through a related art project while parents are given an activity packet created by Whitworth students that accompanies the featured book. Parents are also given a list of related books that they can purchase or check out from the library. Starbucks provides free treats to participants and also provides the gathering space and employee volunteers. Book nights take place every three weeks; the next sessions are scheduled for March 23, April 8, and April 27.

Steven Lloyd, manager of the North Division Y Starbucks and the company's community outreach coordinator for the area, worked with Whitworth students and faculty to conceive the book-night idea. The program will generate funds to help support the Whitworth Literacy Center since Starbucks contributes money to the center in recognition of each hour Starbucks employees volunteer during book-night sessions. At the end of the year, Lloyd's Starbucks can apply for a corporate grant to subsidize the costs of the literacy center.

Rounding out Whitworth's literacy blitz, Whitworth elementary-education students are sponsoring a scholastic book fair April 4-8 in the Hixson Union Building at Whitworth. The fair is open to the public and will feature books for children and adults. The proceeds from the fair will be used to purchase books for Holmes Elementary School students.

Whitworth students selected Holmes to receive the proceeds from the book fair after four education majors worked at Holmes during the college's Jan Term, assessing the reading abilities of children in kindergarten and third and fourth grades. The college students made a heart-to-heart connection with these up-and-coming readers and wanted to do more to help expand their access to children's literature.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


For questions about the Whitworth Literacy Center, contact Chang-nam Lee, associate professor of education, (509) 777-3269 or clee@whitworth.edu, or Betty Fry Williams, professor of education (509) 777-4688 or bwilliams@whitworth.edu.

For questions about book nights at Starbucks and the scholastic book fair, contact Lisa Laurier, assistant professor of education, (509) 777-3263 or llaurier@whitworth.edu.

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