On Saturday mornings every fall and spring semester since 2010, Buffalo State teacher candidates have used the café at the Wegmans on Amherst Street as a launching pad to literacy.
Through the college’s innovative Global Book Hour (GBH), led by faculty members Kim Truesdell and Pixita del Prado Hill, teacher candidates connect Buffalo schoolchildren, many of them immigrants and refugees, with high-quality books. Along with reading aloud to the children, teacher candidates in elementary education, music, and art integrate geography, music, art, and food into the hour by focusing on a different part of the world each week. All children who attend GBH receive a copy of that week’s book to take home.
The books are not cheap. Thus, the project depends on grants and donations to survive. Thanks to a recent $2,500 grant from the Western New York Foundation, the project not only will be able to continue but also expand to an additional location this fall. On Monday evenings beginning September 30, Buffalo State will host another GBH at the Westside Value Laundromat, 417 Massachusetts Ave., as part of the Westside Art Strategic Happenings (WASH) Project.
“Our teacher candidates are very excited about this,” Truesdell said.
The book project will join other community-driven, cultural activities at the laundromat where neighborhood residents gather to play music, create art, read books, and learn languages.
“This location is a nice fit for our project,” said Truesdell. “Our goal is to promote family literacy and involve the parents.”
This has proven successful at Wegmans where parents bring infants through 12-year-olds for the Saturday morning gatherings and interact during the lessons.
In order to involve older children who have aged out of the picture books the teacher candidates typically read, the GBH has recently added chapter books for them.
“They get so engrossed in the books, it’s sometimes hard to get them to stop,” del Prado Hill said.
While Buffalo State students are required to attend five out of the 10 Saturdays per semester, many come more frequently simply because they enjoy the project.
“We even have former students who keep coming back to help,” Truesdell said.
For the teacher candidates, GBH exposes them to literature they might not otherwise read and gives them a unique opportunity to work with parents, del Prado Hill noted.
Truesdell said students have told her that the GBH experience has changed their approach to teaching and made them look at social justice issues more closely.
“Students are also more willing to go into urban schools,” she added. “They don’t have fear (of the unknown).”