Good things can show up in unexpected places. While browsing Twitter, Literacy Coach Robin Jaques unexpectedly found a way to boost her school’s efforts to support students as they learn foundational literacy skills. Through a tweet, Robin learned about the McDonald’s Golden Grants program.
The Golden Grants program offers grants in various dollar amounts totaling $100,000; this includes three $10,000 awards dedicated to schools or individuals in Florida and southern Georgia who are focused on children’s growth, imagination, and education. Recipients are chosen based on need and on the creativity, innovation, and hands-on applicability of the proposed project.
Robin’s school, Bunnell Elementary School in Bunnell, FL, is a Title I school with 1,125 students. Its proposed initiative, the Bunnell Literacy Project, engages a student’s entire family in literacy education. Thanks to Robin’s efforts, her school was awarded one of the $10,000 grants.
Bunnell’s newly funded literacy initiative has two parts. The first part consists of four parent nights designed to educate and encourage family participation as children build critical foundational literacy skills. Literacy coaches will meet with parents and guardians to help them support their children in Grades K–3 as they learn to read and write using Fundations®.
“We’ll tell parents, according to the science of reading, what they can do to help their students at home,” Robin explained. “It’s a time for parents to ask questions and for us to support them. It’s also a way for them to reach out for help if needed.”
Fundations also encourages family involvement with its Home Support Packs. These packets make it easy for teachers to inform parents and guardians about what’s happening in the classroom and suggest home activities that reinforce that learning. To facilitate communication with diverse home environments, Home Support Packs are available in English or Spanish options for each Fundations Level.
Students also will attend the parent nights. While parents meet, children will enjoy themed science activities meant to support the building of background knowledge and vocabulary skills.
The second part of Bunnell Elementary’s literacy initiative consists of a family book packet program. Participating families will receive free packets with books from different genres and on various subjects to keep and read together. The goal of the program is for families to read 40 picture or easy reader books or eight chapter books together.
Home activities that foster vocabulary and comprehension development are important. When parents read aloud to their children and have discussions about the meaning of the text, children are exposed to more advanced concepts, even though they may not yet be able to read the material independently (Gold & Gibson, 2001).
Robin and Assistant Principal Donelle Evensen had worked together at another school before joining Bunnell. When they reunited during the 2019–2020 school year, Robin asked to adopt Fundations as she had used it successfully at her previous school. As a result, Bunnell Elementary began implementing the program in kindergarten and first grade. The kindergarten teachers were excited about Fundations; their enthusiasm spread, and more teachers started using the program. “I think the shift in mindset and understanding of how to teach phonics increased dramatically,” Robin said.
Other elementary schools in the district soon followed in Bunnell Elementary’s footsteps and began implementing Fundations in grades K-2. “Fundations speaks for itself if you use it consistently,” Donelle said.
Florida and southern Georgia McDonald’s owner/operators fund the Golden Grants program, which is in its second year. It awarded grants to fewer than 30 individuals, educators, schools, and organizations in 2022.
Gold, J., & Gibson, A. (2001). Reading aloud to build comprehension. Reading Rockets. Retrieved March 16, 2023, from https://www.readingrockets.org/article/reading-aloud-build-comprehension