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March 11, 2021

SCGLR Summer 2021, Full Steam Ahead!

Recently, 25+ engagement team members hopped on Zoom to begin diving into the upcoming Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge. You’d probably imagine this would be chaotic with so many voices and ideas floating through the room, but I found the upbeat and focused energy invigorating. We took time to introduce new faces and listened to some updates about THIS BOOK IS COOL!, and then we separated into breakout rooms of 4-6 people. Our main topic of discussion was about how we can meet our aspirational goal of increasing family engagement. Now, it’s a mostly-online era, and we want to bring our “A-game” to helping children and families fall in love with reading. Despite many pivots and transitions, we have a talented and dedicated team that is committed to collaborating with the community on innovative solutions.

One aspect of The Patterson Foundation’s strategy that I admire most is its commitment to not arriving with the answer. The Director of the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Beth Duda, reminded us, “Change happens at the speed of trust.” Therefore we must prioritize listening and considering all perspectives before making a concrete decision.

We each hold a shared value of helping people feel heard rather than jumping into a “fix it now!” mindset. Our efforts are more effective and impactful when we allow others to voice their concerns and ideas. We truly recognize the power of partnering with our neighbors, whether parents, teachers, school principals, or local agencies, and understand that we can accomplish more by working collaboratively.

Yes, it’s only February/March, but we realize it’s not too early to begin to plant the seeds for the successful summer we hope to create with the children and families in the Suncoast region. All of us in the Zoom room realize there is much that we want to accomplish, and we are approaching that work with boundless hope for increased participation this year.

I was struck by the strong sense of commitment shared by everyone on the Engagement Team. We all want to connect with the community, share resources, and discover new possibilities. Rather than ruminating on daunting challenges, we’re choosing to capitalize on the joy that is still yet to be discovered when opening a new book for the first time.

The Engagement team brings several unique talents and many diverse perspectives to the table when devising our action plans. Who can we reach next? How can we connect? Who else cares about this?

We will connect with families and summer providers throughout the region in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties, sharing the opportunity to participate in the Suncoast Summer Reading Challenge and THIS BOOK IS COOL!

It was extremely encouraging to be a part of the behind-the-scenes, planning, sharing needs, exploring avenues of support, and being part of this movement to help all children, especially those from asset-limited families, read on grade level by the end of third grade.

During the meeting, one of my colleagues said, “This is not a sprint, we are running a marathon.” I’m proud to be in this race with such a strong team, and we are all looking forward to the next leg, making sure the children in the region, our children, have the tools they need to succeed.

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