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Transforming a Generation: 90% Literacy by Third Grade
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Moonshot Moment Family Literacy Festival

In the profound rhyming words of Dr. Seuss, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go,” The Learning Alliance partnered with the Living Hope Fellowship Church in Gifford to host the third annual Moonshot Family Literacy Festival at Dodgertown Elementary School to help children go “more places” through literacy.

The literacy celebration, inspired by Read Across America Day, featured a birthday party for Dr. Seuss, a Poetry Slam contest, pizza, prizes, games, books, books, books and more books.

Community partners from the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, School District of Indian River County and Bonnie Swanson of the Audubon Society and United Methodist Church joined forces for the free event to promote literacy through fun activities that parents can easily recreate at home.

“Michele Holiday approached The Learning Alliance more than three years ago. She wanted to hold a literacy festival in Gifford to help promote literacy,” recalled Marie O'Brien TLA Manager of Digital Media and Moonshot Outreach. “Michele created all of the activities and garnered support from within the community to make this event possible. It's amazing what a community can do when we all pull together. The joy on the faces of the children as they interacted with volunteers and played literacy-based games with their parents was priceless.”

According to a recent study, 64 percent of 4th-grade students in the U.S. are failing to meet proficient reading standards. Those statistics really spoke to Holiday who said the responsibility does not lay solely on the teachers and the schools. “We have to do our part as a community to help our families, to help our children build better literacy and better tomorrows.”

The games and activities Holiday designed for the literacy festival are all easily made from items around the house or at the Dollar store nearby. Parents and grandparents can duplicate them at home and spend quality time interacting with little ones in a fun and engaging manner while building vocabulary, phonics and other crucial literacy skills.

More than 200 children and their families enjoyed an afternoon of food, fun and reading with Dr. Seuss and his pals: the Cat in the Hat, Sam I Am and Horton. After posing with these Seussical sidekicks, the children visited the Moonshot Moment Bookmobile and picked out free books; oohed and ahhed over the Moonshot Moment Rocket; wrote books; went on a scavenger hunt; designed bookmarks; built sentences; played a ring toss game with native birds, and even showed off their reading skills in a game of hoops.

The Poetry Jam at the end of the festival celebrated words and literacy in true Seuss style. With rhyme and wit emcee Angela Thomas Peterson drew the audience in for a “fantastical journey.” Dorrian Bridges inspired young poets with the recitation of his work and 10, third-grade students from Karen Whelan's class at Pelican Island Elementary School with props in hand shared some of their favorite poems.

It took the children weeks to memorize their poems and make their props, according to Whelan. “They came in early every day before school to work, practiced at home and had a dress rehearsal in front of other third graders. This was such a great experience for them.”

“We are thankful for Michele and her parents. They truly care about this community and realize the importance literacy will play in the lives of children to create a better future for themselves. Their dedication is a perfect model for other churches and community members to see how they can support the Moonshot Moment literacy movement and support the community’s goal for 90 percent of all students to be reading on or above grade-level by the third grade,” said O'Brien.

Taking a page from Dr. Seuss, remember “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Together we can make a difference.

Join us on April 6 at Sebastian River High School for Read Across the Field at 8 a.m. Hundreds of literacy supporters will create a life-size Moonshot Rocket to kick off the School District of Indian River County's annual countywide track meet.