Local Organizations Link Up for Youth Literacy

Dele Johnson

On a warm Fall morning in mid-October, I find myself at Hallett Academy, a Denver Public School in the Northeast Park Hill neighborhood ready to learn about the Hallett Early Literacy program. The program is a partnership between the Denver (CO) Chapter, The Links, Inc., the White Rose Foundation (the Denver (CO) chapter’s donor-advised fund at The Denver Foundation), nonprofit organization BookTrust, and the Park Hill United Methodist Church (PHUMC). This cross-sector community collaboration aims to increase youth literacy and support students, teachers, and parents through genuine partnership in and compassion for the Park Hill community and a special method for increasing early childhood literacy called dialogic reading. The following are follow up interviews with Ida Daniel and Patricia Rogers, Denver (CO) Links members, and Nathan Adams a Lead Pastor at PHUMC all key players in bringing the Hallett Early Literacy Program to life.

Interview with Ida Daniel and Patricia Rogers

DJ: How did the Hallett Early Literacy program come about?

ID/PR: When members of the Denver Links participated in an ongoing program assessment last year, certain members with backgrounds in early childhood expressed a desire to focus on early literacy.  Link Linda Thornton described a reading program in Sarasota, Florida in which approximately 200 volunteers read and listened to children in grades kindergarten through the third grade each week.  These reflections and comments caused members of the DenverLinks to express a desire to model a program at Hallett for pre-kindergarten through kindergarten children. Members recognized that reading is the foundation that enables all children to succeed and that effective teaching of reading must begin at the earliest age coupled with appropriate literacy practices.

As Co-Chairs of the Early Literacy Reading Program, Patricia Rogers and Ida Daniel have worked closely with the Hallett principal, Dominique Jefferson, and the Hallett teachers over the last year to create this new program.  

To make this program a success, the team also collaborated with other partners whose participation was vital.  Link Ida Daniel was instrumental in working with Reverend Nathan Adams, Lead Pastor at Park Hill United Methodist Church, to recruit church members to volunteer to read to children.  A Denver Links member, Tamika Pumphrey, who serves on the Book Trust Board of Directors, effectively lobbied to assure that Book Trust would continue its support of Hallett Academy by providing scholastic books to the Hallett students once a month.  Additionally, Denver Links president LaDawn Sullivan shared with the team opportunities to request assessment grants.

The Links’ Early Literacy Reading Program at Hallett Academy is a program of the Services to Youth Facet of the Denver (CO) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.  This program is modeled after the national organization’s “Links to Success: Children Achieving Excellence Signature Program,” which is a program to mentor and assist Pre-K to 3rdgraders in closing the gap for minority students with an emphasis on literacy.

DJ: How is the White Rose Foundation helping to support this program?

ID/PR: The White Rose Foundation, Incorporated (TWRF), was founded in 2007 by the Denver (CO) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, an affiliate chapter of our national organization.  Our local sister organization, the Denver Links, is an organization of professional women of color that addresses disparities in communities of color. With an overall emphasis on education, TWRF serves as the Section 501(c)(3) philanthropic fundraising partner and funds programs implemented by the programmatic Facets of the Denver Links.  These Facets include Services to Youth, The Arts, Health & Human Services, National Trends and Services, and International Trends and Services.TWRF provides financial support to The Denver (CO) Chapter for the Early Literacy Reading Program to defray program expenses.

DJ: What kind of training/outreach/support will Hallett provide to parents of children who are in the early literacy program to encourage Dialogic reading in the home?

ID/PR: Parent education on reading takes several forms.  Librarians from Denver Public Library come to Hallett to speak to the parents on Dialogic reading and other reading strategies including book selection.  Hallett has an upcoming “Family Literacy Night” which will feature a speaker from The Black Child Development Institute. The Links will also host a parent night in the spring and bring in additional literacy speakers.

Interview with Nathan Adams (NA):

DJ: How did you learn about the Denver (CO) Chapter of The Links, Inc.? How did the partnership between PHUMC and The Links Begin?

NA: We have several members of Park Hill UMC who are links members. I had been introduced to the organization by them and had previously attended several events the group has hosted. The partnership between PHUMC and The Links arose out of a conversation Ida Daniel and I had earlier this year. I had been meeting with various people and groups about the potential to either personally mentor and/or set up a mentoring program in the life of PHUMC. I was put in touch with Ida. We discussed The Links' work previously at Hallett and how PHUMC might be able to help in starting a mentoring/reading program with the Links. It seemed like a natural fit for my hopes for our church and the plans of The Links. I then had a conversation with Principal Jefferson (Principal of Hallett Academy). We hit it off as we shared our hopes and dreams and eventually through a lot of visioning, planning, teamwork and such we launched the program at PHUMC in August and started mentoring in October.

DJ: How are the values of PHUMC and The Links aligned?

NA: PHUMC cares deeply about sharing the love of God through Jesus in a wide variety of ways to all people. We feel strongly that practicing justice in our community is one way to do this. Justice for us is seeing a problem or need and asking why it exists. We understand that there is a link between literacy and education and poverty, opportunity, and crime, for example. For us, helping children to be exposed to more [literacy] and to caring adults in addition to those in their households is one way to practice and share this justice as we address some of the root causes of the problems many in our community experience. Being a good neighbor in our community is an essential part of who we are as a church. I get the impression that as an organization that The Links operate under a similar mentality. We seek to empower, equip, and strengthen individuals and the larger community through service, justice, and beyond.

DJ: What is your vision for the partnership between PHUMC, The Links, and Hallet Academy?

NA: My vision for the partnership between PHUMC, The Links, and Hallett Academy is that we will grow to be an integral part of one another's lives and especially in the lives of the students, families, teachers, and faculty at Hallett. My vision is that we would build strong relationships with the people of Hallett as we read to and mentor [students], helping to create great young citizens of our community who are literate, articulate, caring, and hope-filled. For PHUMC specifically, I want our members to be a deep and vibrant part of our immediate community to a level that we are an integral part of its very fabric. I want our larger community to know that there is a church that cares about them and knows them because they are a part of us and vice versa. I expect this will take place as we expand the partnership to other grade levels in future years and work with Hallett and The Links to decide what other needs of our community we might work to fulfill together and possibly even eradicate before they begin by examining and addressing the root cause of such needs.

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