This past March, the Manatee Community Foundation gave a grant to the Manatee Library Foundation for the Marauders’ Library Readers program, which highlights baseball as an interdisciplinary text for learning to read. Through this support and that of community partners – including the Bradenton Marauders and the Manatee County Public Library System— 180 children attending G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary, a low-performing Title I school, were engaged around reading and baseball.
Where do most of these children live? In the shadow of McKechnie Field where the Bradenton Marauders play! Yet, many of these children knew nothing about baseball, and certainly had never seen a game.
After six weeks, the children knew all the player positions, the equipment, could and did sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” nonstop, were read to by Bradenton Marauders players, met Marty the mascot, attended a Marauders game and ate hot dogs. (Their world and tummies nearly exploded!)
The curve ball the children didn’t see coming was that they improved their literacy skills. Programs like this are paving the way for success as part of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which brings a cohesive and collaborative approach to children’s literacy in both Manatee and Sarasota counties.
With the Marauders’ Library Readers, fourth graders mentored younger children in creating their personal baseball cards, children wrote poems about baseball, performed skits and each child received a copy of the book “Casey Back at Bat.” During a field trip to the Manatee County Central Library, the “real library” as the kids said, library cards were issued to all with the invitation to come back and participate in the summer-reading challenge. At least 25 parents accompanied the children — a remarkable turnout for this school.
Great effort went into this program and many others that MCF has funded over the years. There is a difference now. As part of the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the entire community is rallying. Our school district has made a major pivot to actively engage in the areas of attendance and summer slide, Manatee County’s coalition of more than 40 community organizations is enhancing programs that help to achieve school readiness and educational opportunities, and all of us are working to attract more funding to the cause.
The Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is here and MCF is proud to be part of it.
The Manatee Community Foundation is one of the lead network weavers for the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County. Other lead network weavers include the United Way of Manatee County, the School District of Manatee County and USF Sarasota – Manatee.