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2010 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Children's Literacy Initiative

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Literacy, Preschools, Primary & Elementary Schools, Remedial Reading & Encouragement

Mission: CLI''s mission is closing the gap in reading achievement between children in poverty and their middle-class counterparts. Effective literacy instruction combined with great children''s books is the heart and soul of CLI''s programs. The majority of children in the classrooms we serve are from economically disadvantaged families with little or no access to books. When we furnish classroom collections (up to 200 children''s books) and assist pre-K through 3rd grade teachers in literacy instruction, we work to give these children an essential tool for academic success and an opportunity to develop a life-long love of reading. Headquartered in Philadelphia since our founding in 1988, CLI has been funded by government and private grants as well as many generous individuals. Our clients have included the school districts of Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Newark, and Philadelphia.

Programs: In addition to our long-term projects for systemic change in Baltimore, Newark, Philadelphia, and other smaller school districts, CLI conducts numerous targeted projects from Atlanta to Boston to Chicago for school districts, individual schools, Head Starts, and childcare providers. We have conducted Institutes for Teachers and provided materials to Head Starts nationally. CLI offers a summer Institute for teachers in Philadelphia for second-year Teach For America teachers from around the country to help them learn effective classroom management. CLI provides: 1. Professional development for early childhood educators. This includes group trainings (Institutes, seminars, and workshops), one-on-one on-site coaching by our Professional Developers, consultations, and guided classroom visits. Our clients include teachers (including teachers from Head Start and Teach For America) and school district reading coaches. 2. Creation and maintenance of 51 Model Classrooms in typical schools serving low-income communities in 11 cities and 6 states. These classrooms provide opportunities for other teachers to see best instructional practices used effectively in classrooms like their own. Observing these successful classrooms serves to increase teacher expectations of students, a key factor in raising student achievement. Some of the classrooms also serve as coaching laboratories in which our Professional Developers can help school district coaches enhance their skills. 3. Our Blueprint for Early Literacy® pre-kindergarten curriculum, which has demonstrated extraordinary and consistent success in helping disadvantaged children acquire the skills they need to learn to read. We work to implement Blueprint and train teachers in its use in school districts, Head Starts, and childcare centers from Atlanta to Boston and from Chicago to the Shenandoah Valley. 4. Carefully selected collections of excellent children?s books to help create high-quality classroom literacy environments

Community Stories

12 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Client Served

Rating: 1

CLI has unfair interview practices. Each applicant is required to undergo a different process. People of color undergo a more rigorous interview process.
People of color are rarely employed in their corporate/supervisor positions. People of color are relegated to field based positions only.
In training videos that represent best practices only white teachers and coaches are shown. In a city as diverse as Philadelphia there are no people of color shown in training videos.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

Children's Literacy Initiative was a key component of my classroom in North Philadelphia. With limited supplies, CLI stepped up and provided my classroom with a plethora of books as well as lots of guidance on implementing them and increasing students' love of reading. I would, hands down, accept them into another classroom of mine.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Seeing the work that the Children's Literacy Initiative has accomplished within the public school system of Philadelphia has truly renewed my faith that there are people in this world working to make a real difference--and succeeding. The current climate in our public schools has the potential to create an even larger divide between the upper and lower classes of our country, and this divide is driven mostly by issues of literacy. The work that CLI does deserves to be championed because they have managed to develop a set of best practices that not only promote literacy in a traditional sense, but in every aspect of the curriculum, giving students the tools they need to have more agency in their pursuit of knowledge as a whole. I was so moved by the commitment I witnessed that I was driven to find out more about their work across the nation. Their efforts to advocate for equal education for all should be celebrated and supported.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I attended a CLI Institute for Teach For America corps members in the summer of 2009, and I have to say it was one of the most valuable instructional trainings I have ever had--it really took my teaching to a higher level. I am currently working in a low-income urban school (past my 2-year TFA commitment), and I often use the strategies and techniques we examined in that seminar--to the great benefit of my students. I wish I could have had more training with CLI. I am convinced that their model of supporting teachers through collaborative coaching is the most effective way to improve instruction over the long term. I know they would do wonders for my school.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I worked with a teacher who received professional development via Children's Literacy Initiative and she could not say enough about how happy she was with the program! Thrilled! She compared herself to her peers and felt much better prepared to go out into the field. She spoke with me at length about the strategies she learned to work with struggling readers and I was moved by her real life examples. Since my interaction with this teacher I have performed my own research and it is clear that Children's Literacy Initiative is exactly the type of organization we want working with our teachers to help maximize student achievement.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Communication is at the heart of the human condition. If one has no confidence in that regard, one has little or no chance to excel in life. I know because it's what I do for a living. I communicate with people to gather news and I communicate with our audience by presenting it to them. Effective communication begins and ends with literacy. If you can't read well, you won't speak well and, most importantly, you cannot learn. The consequences are disastrous to any young person and we owe it to every one of them to present them with the greatest opportunity to make the most out of their lives. I was so lucky to be the son of two loving parents who read to me so often that they joke to this day how I used to interject during my favorite stories to tell them they missed one word! Unfortunately, far too many--millions likely--children aren't products of the same loving environment. They're school systems aren't well-funded and the combination is enough to seal their fate at a young age without help. CLI's mission is to provide that help. I can think of no better purpose than ensuring every disadvantaged child steps onto an equal playing field in the game of life.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

After teaching for ten years, winning a local award, and getting a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, I thought I was more than equipped to help children learn to read and write. From Chicago to the far west rural areas, I had done my best with developing literacy in young children, and thankfully received "superior" evaluations throughout. However, in Children's Literacy Initiative, I have discovered a whole new outlook on what best practice really involves, and how to help teachers, novice or veteran, understand and implement this type of instruction. Well-trained, supportive coaches are facilitators for elementary teachers who may need help in a number of areas. These include classroom environment, routines, reader's/writer's workshop, and the CLI-developed "MTP". MTP is Message Time Plus, and builds upon/revolutionizes the typical morning message. This is just one example of how CLI takes everyday practices and uses research to improve them. These are then made teacher friendly. Teachers build supportive relationships with coaches, who they trust are not there to judge their performance. They receive and endless amount of ideas and actual lessons/books to directly affect students more positively and instill a lifelong love of learning. I can't think of a more comprehensive, inspiring and effective way to help children master literacy.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I went to a college that was originally a normal school, one with the sole purpose of training teachers. I had several long term student teaching experiences, and I thought I had a solid education behind my teaching degree. I was shocked to discover I had very little idea how to move students as readers, and was at a complete loss when it came to instructing writing. I could have good discussions with children about the stories in their basal textbooks. (I should mention that when I first started teaching the "stories" in these texts were vocabulary controlled resulting in very weak narratives.)I could assign writing topics and correct each and every error a student made, essentially rewriting his work, and handing back the paper for recopying, but I could do little else. I was left to my own devices to improve my craft. Now I work with teachers, the majority very early in their careers and I co-plan, co-teach, and co-reflect on each lesson we do together, implementing best practices in the instruction of literacy. Children's Literacy Initiative keeps my colleagues and me abreast of the most current research regarding literacy instruction, and I am able to asure that any teacher I'm assigned to coach isn't left to flounder like I did as a new teacher. As a result, teachers who use best practices as their teaching strategies can expose their students to rich literature increasing the domains of the children's knowledge and allowing them to hear sophisticated vocabulary in context. Students can emulate fluent reading modeled by their teachers as they navigate texts at their own levels using decoding and comprehension strategies learned during these read-alouds, during reading workshop, or Message Time Plus. Writing is demystified as children are taught to view the world as writers, and then choose their own topics for writing, trying craft modeled by their teachers, or maybe by an author studied by the class. Mechanics are taught and used purposefully rather than in meaningless isolation. Children ultimately see themselves as writers with ideas worthy of recording. Children's Literacy Initiative empowers teachers, thereby empowering all the students they will ever teach.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Before Children's Literacy Initiative, I had never before worked for an employer that so highly prioritizes reflection, goal adjustment and real collaborative input from its employees. There are no experts at this organization-- just colleagues with expertise. We are constantly and rigorously exchanging ideas with each other during our professional development sessions, content meetings, mentor visits, book discussions and so on-- thus, I feel highly confident in my professional role, yet I avoid falling into a common pitfall of believing that I know "the correct way" to tackle something. Each day that I coach, I go out into the field fully armed physically with resources, and mentally with individual colleagues' faces over my shoulders. I know I am part of a team that talks, listens, assesses, practices, tweaks, supports, brainstorms and strives. I honestly could not custom tailor a better work environment; the resulting pride and satisfaction I feel from being part of this committed, nurturing community empowers me to persevere and dig deeper. The teachers I work with know that I am not the expert-- I am their partner, and together we adjust and improve upon our practices. I've adopted this philosophy because it is the heart of CLI's mission.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

For nearly 20 years I have provided professional development for teachers, childcare workers, administrators and parents through Children’s Literacy Initiative (CLI). In recent years my work has focused on teaching teachers the most effective, research based educational practices and helping them put these best practices into operation in their classrooms. The range of teachers impacted by CLI varies greatly. Last year I helped a new prek teacher schedule reading aloud great quality picture books to her children several times a day. I also supported a veteran 1st grade teacher in instituting a powerful reading workshop and upgrading her writing instruction. What I especially appreciated was the opportunity the teachers and I had to visit other teachers who excelled in these practices to see how they taught and have our questions answered. How satisfying to witness young children from low income and impoverished neighborhoods reading, writing, listening and speaking well!

1

Former staff

Rating: 5

What a great day when I was accepted as a Coach with the CLI program! After an extensive interview, I was accepted into the Coaching program associated with CLI. As a former school administrator, while I had general knowledge of classroom instruction, I did not have specific skills in Langugage Arts instruction. After receiving on-site training and in-the-field support throughout the school year, I was able to develop skills and understanding of the learning process that I did not have before. I was able to support teacher learning and development. I'd like to believe that the teachers with whoom I worked retained a higher level of skills for this year than how they began last school year. In April, I was recruited to head the academic program in a new charter school in Brooklyn. Due to my ability to ably describe language arts instruction, I secured the new position. Thank you CLI for the research-based training and ever-present support. It was a great experience and I am far more valuable to the instructional process in my new school. Thank you CLI!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a teacher who has been expected to implement a number of literacy programs over my career, it was a huge surprise to come across Children's Literacy Initiative! The outstanding components of their program, for me, are an in depth and coherent understanding of how children acquire literacy skills and comprehension - a love of learning-, and the fact that while every teacher is given a series of training workshops, that is only the beginning. For the rest of the year, or a multi-year commitment, they also receive on-site, individualized coaching designed to help them not just implement best practices, but become so comfortable with them that they can apply what they learn to their teaching in the future. Based on intensive understanding of the research, CLI is able to bring early literacy skills to disadvantaged children, yet not at the cost of the social/emotional and play components of these grades. How cool is that?