National Book Month | Organizations that make a difference across the nation

By: Jenn Langdon, Director of Business Development

At Newz Group we are big proponents of reading – not just when it comes to reading over 35% of American newspapers for monitoring purposes, but also in our personal lives.

We also believe that literacy and education access are crucial parts of children’s development and in turn, make our society an even better place.
We are fortunate to work with many organizations that work tirelessly to promote literacy and learning in their communities, and in honor of National Book Month, we want to take a moment to highlight some of their work.

Working to promote educational access and literacy can take on many meanings. This is much more than putting books in children’s hands; it involves communication, outreach, and technology to help foster personal growth. To learn more about this important work, we reached out to a few of the people doing this amazing job.

WV Kids Count

The age-old adage, ‘Knowing is half the battle,’ oftentimes proves itself to be quite true. This is the case when it comes to improving the lives and education access of our most vulnerable populations in society. Without quality data and recommendations, it is impossible to know how many children are affected by poverty and how that affects their development.

West Virginia Kids Count has been working for over three decades to make West Virginia a great state for every child to grow up in. They do this primarily through data, by sourcing and providing public officials in the state data and policy recommendations to benefit children and families.

Q: How does WV Kids count help the children of West Virginia?

KIDS COUNT supports the well-being of all children in West Virginia by building partnerships with child-serving organizations to stand up for what kids need.

Q: Why is data collection so crucial in helping children succeed?

WV KIDS COUNT provides state legislators, public officials and child advocates with the reliable data, policy recommendations and tools needed to advance sound policies that benefit West Virginia’s children and families. We work to raise the visibility of children’s issues in the media, particularly poverty and its effects on lifelong outcomes.

Q: What is the biggest hurdle facing children in your state?

The percentage of low birthweight babies has fluctuated between a rate of 9 and 10 over recent years and remains high at 9.3.

While teen and child death rates decreased last year, they have increased again to 31.2 deaths per 100,000.

Education during COVID in 2020 was a difficult situation for our children and families and this year’s data offers insight into the need to continue to work to improve proficiency in reading and math among 4th and 8th graders.

Q: We all hear about poverty, but it can be hard to visualize how that affects children and what that looks like in reality. How would you describe that?

If a hypothetical classroom of 30 children were based on current demographics in West Virginia, this is how the students in that classroom would live:

  • Three children would have been a low weight at birth

  • Two children would be a racial minority

  • Six children would live in poverty

  • 10 children would live in a home with parents who lack secure employment

  • 18 children would be covered by Medicaid

  • One child would have no health insurance

  • Three children would live in Foster Care

  • Two children would live in families where the household head did not graduate from high school

  • Four of those children would be exposed to drugs

Colorado Humanities was founded in 1974, and since their founding they have used the humanities to help the people of Colorado explore the state’s unique cultural heritage and foster a love of reading in all ages. Since their founding over fifty years ago, Colorado Humanities has established and facilitated over 90 programs and reaches approximately 340,000 people every year.

The humanities are not a luxury; they are fundamental to the fabric of our country and its
individual communities. A strong, vibrant democracy requires engaged citizens informed by the humanities.

Currently, Colorado Humanities facilitates several programs to promote education and literacy in Colorado citizens of all ages. Motheread/Fatheread Colorado is the primary literacy program; this program trains facilitators to work with parents of children to help them discover the importance of the link between literature and success. Parents reading aloud on a consistent basis to their children promotes and improves communication skills, reasoning abilities, critical thinking and decision-making skills.

Countless studies have shown that creative expression is a healthy way for people to work through their feelings. The Veterans Writing Program gives Colorado’s veterans, families and caregivers a safe space to write about and process their experiences.

Colorado Humanities also manages several programs that make the history of Colorado come alive in accessible ways. The Colorado Encyclopedia, which was developed in conjunction with Colorado State University, is a searchable, vetted and thorough resource on the history of Colorado. By accepting entries from historians and museums, The Colorado Encyclopedia gives students, educators and the public at large a source to learn about history that is more comprehensive and trusted than Google or Wikipedia. The Chautauqua Living history programs help audiences and students across the state connect with significant historical figures through scholars portraying the historical figures. Chautauqua programs have been used to educate audiences since the late 1800s, and Colorado Humanities has helped revived this art and make it a unique learning experience for current generations.

Iowa PBS

PBS’s television programming has been an important part in countless people’s education. From classic children’s shows like Sesame Street or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? to more adult-oriented educational shows like the documentary series Nova and Independent Lens, PBS’s programming has provided something for everyone’s educational benefit not only in America but across the globe.

There is much more to PBS than just quality television; read to learn more about the roots of Iowa’s Public Television and how they work to continue to reach audiences today.

PBS’ television programming has been, and continues to be, an important source of educational content for all ages. From classic children’s shows like Sesame Street or Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? to more adult-oriented educational shows like the documentary series Nova and Independent Lens, PBS’ programming has provided something for everyone’s educational benefit – not only in America but across the globe.

There is much more to PBS than just quality television; read to learn more about the roots of Iowa’s Public Television and how they work to continue to reach audiences today.

Question: How has Iowa been a trailblazer in educational television?

A: From our very beginnings, Iowa PBS has been focused on education. We began at Tech High in the Des Moines Public School system in 1969, producing programs to support science, Spanish and music education. As early as 1970, we developed programming for use within the K-12 school system. In addition to our broadcast, we have always believed in the value of engagement with our audience. As a result, Iowa PBS has always served Iowa’s communities both over the air and in person with events, screenings, forums, debates and discussions. We have strived to be Iowa’s hub for public policy information and a platform for civic and civil discourse.

We have a team of dedicated education professionals who work in and out of the studio to produce everything from historical to STEM media and content. These free resources, created with our Iowa audience in mind, provide teachers and students with information and lessons to broaden their horizons and nurture their curiosity. Our Iowa Science Phenomena project is a great example of how we combine information, media and engagement to promote learning.

Today, Iowa PBS strives to meet our viewers where they are, whatever that technology platform may be. In addition to our statewide broadcast, we share content online through two linear livestreams, our primary channel and our KIDS channel, and through on-demand streams via our website, the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android and many streaming devices. Behind-the-scenes extras and more can be enjoyed on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube.

Q:  Why is early childhood education so important?  

A: Between the ages of 2-7, a child’s brain develops at an astonishing rate. Research has shown that two-year olds have twice as many neural connections in their growing brains as adults have. This is why children can learn a new language faster and easier than adults can. These connections are how the brain grows and develops, and they provide compelling evidence to support early childhood education, especially in the areas of literacy and social emotional development.

Q: What role does PBS programming play in early childhood education?

A: PBS programming takes a holistic approach to early childhood development. Throughout our weekday and weekend schedules, you can find programs supporting all aspects of STEAM education, literacy and social emotional development. Perhaps more importantly, the shows include a wide representation of people from all backgrounds and identities. Young children from a variety of cultures and experiences gain a sense of belonging when they see familiar faces, traditions and customs demonstrated as they learn more about the world and their place in it.

Q: Outside of television, what else does Iowa PBS do to promote learning and literacy in children?

Responding to data identifying a clear need, Iowa PBS developed its Ready For School program supporting childcare centers, pre-schools and providers in selected communities across Iowa. Our education team provides free professional development, in-person training and educational resources for providers so they may better serve the children in their neighborhoods and communities. These free resources may include reading, science, math and social emotional media, activities and books.  We also work with the area libraries providing resources and offering family events such as STEAM and literacy nights and interactive storytimes.

Q:  How do PBS broadcasting & television shows help educate people of all ages?

A: Educating and enlightening viewers is our specialty. PBS and programs such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Wild Kratts and Super Why are often kids’ first introduction to entertaining content. They don’t even notice that they are learning foundational skills in literacy, science, math and social emotional development as they watch. Today’s parents and grandparents grew up on Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood and the Electric Company. As adults, PBS programming now offers them endless opportunities to learn about new technologies and scientific discoveries through shows like Nova and Nature. For many of them, my family included, the only opportunity to experience the arts, opera, ballet or  orchestral performances are by watching them on PBS.

Celebrating its 25th year, Newz Group provides state press associations with publisher support and archiving services alongside the most comprehensive newspaper monitoring in the greater Midwest. Newz Group is the primary media monitoring source for over 1/3 of American newspapers. For more information visit: www.newzgroup.com

Jenn Langdon is the Business Development Director at Newz Group. She has also been a contributing writer to the Sedalia Democrat and The Kansas City Pitch and was recently named the 2nd Best Newspaper Columnist by Missouri Magazine. Jenn has been with Newz Group for almost two years.