The Schools Within the Context of Community program is a unique approach to teacher education that has now received 10 national awards for innovation in educator preparation. Students in this award-winning program are immersed in one of Muncie's most historic African-American neighborhoods where they participate in community mobilization efforts alongside community mentors who impart the strengths and values of the children and families with whom candidates work during their practicum placement. This semester-long experience informs Ball State students’ development as culturally responsive, equity-focused, socially-just future teachers. The Schools Within the Context of Community program broadens the definition of teacher educator beyond university faculty to include school administrators, local pastors, service providers, community elders, members of the local community council, and parents within the community.
Over the last 10 years, one of the program’s areas of focus has been on ensuring neighborhood children’s access to literature that is culturally affirming and sustaining. We have developed free little libraries, hosted multicultural book fairs, and redesigned classroom libraries to be sure that all children can see themselves in the books they read, as well as have access to stories that represent the diversity of the world around them. Research suggests that children’s motivation to read is greater when there are characters and stories to which they can easily relate. There is additional research to suggest that the presence of books in children’s homes can be correlated with children’s academic success.
A donation to the Schools Within the Context of Community program would ensure children’s continued access to books that are culturally responsive and affirming. Data collected over the last nine years indicate significant increases in children’s grade-level reading among children in the school in which we are privileged to work.
With grade level reading as a predictor of high school graduation and participation in post-secondary study, we continue our commitment to neighborhood literacy, and thank you in advance for considering a contribution!