International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Exploring Adolescent Literacy on Staten Island

One of the most distressing issues for West African refugee and immigrant parents in Staten Island is the difficulty their children have with reading. This past summer, IRC-Staten Island and Century Dance Complex Kids N Teens Program (CDC) partnered to ensure refugee youth received extra literacy support. Supported by the Staten Island Foundation, IRC and CDC implemented a Summer Literacy Enhancement Program that fused literacy and acting in a class at CDC’s summer camp. Through exploration of Liberian folk tales, the program helped students mitigate the loss of critical learning acquired during the school year, build new literacy skills and even write their own folk tales.

  This October IRC-Staten Island will be launching SPOTLIGHT! a dynamic after school Adolescent Literacy Program at Berta A. Dreyfus Intermediate School 49 (IS 49) in Staten Island. This initiative is being supported by the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. For 3 afternoons each week, 20 IS 49 6th graders will brush up on literacy in a whole new way – developing skills for the stage. Like the Summer Literacy Enhancement Program, SPOTLIGHT! will tap students' interests in the performing arts to improve reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills – from playwriting to dance theater. While addressing skills being taught in the school-day curriculum, a Literacy Teacher and Teaching Artist, supported by a team of tutors, will deliver an engaging curriculum around the theme of world cultures. To celebrate their progress, students will also have opportunities to perform and experience the energy and excitement of Broadway shows. The SPOTLIGHT! program will operate for 3 years. The goal for each participant is to be reading and writing at grade level before graduating from the Program.     As a prelude to the launch of SPOTLIGHT!, IRC-Staten Island is proud to share the following folk tale written by Anna Sellah, one of the students who participated in this summers' Literacy Enhancement Program:   Fly, Butter, and Spider   Once upon a time, there was a fly who went to the store and bought a box of butter to bake a cake for his Mom’s birthday. When he went back home, his roommate, Spider, was asleep. Fly had to go get something for his Mom so he went into Spider’s room. He told Spider not to touch the butter, but Spider did not listen. Later on, Spider woke up and was hungry, so he ate the butter. When Fly came back, he started looking for the butter. Fly asked Spider, but Spider lied and said that he did not know what happened to the butter.  So then Fly and Spider went to the beach where the birthday party was. It was hot, and Spider started sweating butter! Fly found out that the Spider ate the butter and said, “If you were hungry you should have told me.” And after that, Spider never lied again.   Moral: What happens in the dark comes to light.