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Norwalk Partnership Works to Close Literacy Gap

NORWALK, Conn. – Three public and private oranizations have joined forces in Norwalk to close the literacy gap and better prepare young children for school.

The partnership, announced Wednesday, goes under the name Early Learning and Literacy Initiative and will provide prekindergarten lab schools, teacher training and after-school and parent programs, said Alesia DiCosola, spokesman for the Stepping Stones Museum for Children, one of the three participants. The others are Norwalk Community College and Literacy How Inc.

The effort is designed to address the early learning and literacy needs and interests of children, prepare them for success in school and future careers, and inspire a lifelong love of learning.

"If our children thrive, Connecticut will thrive. If we expect pediatricians to have state-of-the-art skills to keep our kids healthy, then we should expect no less from our teachers," said Margie B. Gillis, president and founder of Literacy How, in a statement. "This collaboration will set up teachers and students for early literacy success grounded in the latest research on how language supports learning and what works in the classroom."

DiCosola said ELLI is a dynamic, asset-based project that will:

  • Build the capabilities of all children and help close the literacy achievement gap in Connecticut;
  • Provide teaching and learning experiences within language-rich environments for students, parents, caregivers and educators that foster early language and literacy development;
  • Incorporate learning-how-to-learn strategies to strengthen the relationship between learning and living successful lives;
  • Align with supportive community leadership and resources through organizations such as Norwalk ACTS, a collaborative network of more than 40 Norwalk community leaders and organizations.

"At Stepping Stones Museum for Children, we create quality, interactive environments where children can learn about the world through play. Through this unique partnership, the ELLI will provide immersive teaching and learning opportunities for both children and adults to learn, grow and succeed," said Rhonda Kiest, executive director of Stepping Stones, in a statement.

The initiative will use the facilities of NCC and Stepping Stones and have satellite program extensions at offsite locations. The learning framework, approach, educational curriculum and program design will be facilitated by field experts using inclusive and effective classroom practices to engage every student at all skill levels. Organizers hope that ELLI will serve as a model in collaborative early childhood education that can be replicated throughout Connecticut.

"As the largest producer of early childhood educators in Southwestern Connecticut, Norwalk Community College is thrilled to enter into this exciting partnership with Stepping Stones and Literacy How," David Levinson, president of Norwalk Community College, said in a statement. "This will allow our educators to experience the hands-on, rich tactile environment of Stepping Stones as we expand the breadth and depth of our program."

A cornerstone of the initiative will be prekindergarten lab schools for children ages 5 and younger. These lab schools will serve as training and professional development sites for teachers, parents and caregivers, with opportunities for conducting educational research-to-practice studies.

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