CSU-Fort Benning Students Engage Kids in Online Reading Blog
COLUMBUS, Ga. — Five Columbus State University classmates are helping local at-risk kids express their newfound love of books online, by blogging.
The spring 2011 initiative, the Wilson Reading Club: Online Reading Blog, evolved from communication professor Danna Gibson’s Group Communication course, which requires a service-learning project.
The CSU group – Army Lts. Chris Mulch and Shane Hancock; Mulch’s wife, Julie; Army Reservist Sgt. Tyisha Jones; and civilian Amber Liggin – credited its disciplined, task- and team-oriented military background for seeing the project through.
“The leaders in the group came to me and said ‘we want to do something with substance, something that will make a difference,’” Gibson said.
She challenged the students to create a complementary program for the Wilson Learning Center, a collaborative operation of the Conyers, Ga.-based Samarc Dream and Achieve Foundation, the Columbus Housing authority, Muscogee County School District and, since 2008, CSU’s Department of Communication.
The Wilson Reading Club they founded led to a website and blog by Fox Elementary School children in grades 3-5. More than 20 kids read and discussed such books as Jackie Joyner Kersee: Champion Athlete and That Book Woman, about a “pack horse librarian” from the 1930s, who delivered books by horseback to that era’s at-risk kids of Appalachia.
"The (CSU students) smartly capitalized on the kids’ intrigue for ‘all things Internet’ to get them excited about reading and the club,” said Gibson. “It was amazing to see the kids light up and really take ownership of the project.”
Gibson said her students “blended their interests in children's education, tutoring, reading and technology and applied the principles of group building, maintenance and performing to produce this amazing project.”
Julie Mulch said the collaborative effort combined the group member’s strengths and interests, including photography, videography, online communication and early childhood education.
“(We) efficiently blended our background skills to make this work,” she said. ”The student blogs consist of both text and video, so in addition to reading comprehension, the students exercised their written and oral communication skills. Plus, they were excited to be part of the video and website production process.”
The project also impressed the parents, including a mother of four participants who said the club “helped develop their reading skills,” said Patricia Barrios on behalf of the Samarc Foundation. “In addition, (the mother) directly attributes the program to generating an interest in ‘recreational’ reading in her children – something that they had not exhibited previously.”
Such an outcome is a primary objective of the COMM 2136 course. “While I teach the theory in class, students form groups along interest lines, then apply the theory in real-life settings,” Gibson said. “Each group is unique because of the unique skills sets and interests of the members making up this group.
The four classmates with Fort Benning-military backgrounds are completing their communication degrees this fall. Liggin, a junior communication major, is planning a service-oriented career.
Julie Mulch plans to maintain the website into the 2011-2012 school year. “The kids, this summer, continue to visit the site and add comments,” she said. “It continues to draw their interest.”
The CSU students also produced a brief video overview of their project.
Amber Liggin, the project team’s lone civilian, guides a student in the Wilson Reading Lab.
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