'Village Talk' brings students & researchers to Elon to share ideas

The second annual event hosted by the university's "It Takes a Village" Project featured talks, a poster presentation, and musical selections by children involved in a program aimed at helping youth overcome reading difficulties.

Professors and students involved in “Village Projects” at five institutions visited Elon University on Dec. 6, 2014, to talk about their work helping children learn to read, to share best practices and ideas developed at their respective sites, and to brainstorm possible research questions that might offer insights into the complex issue of helping youth overcome reading difficulties.

Organized by the Center for Access & Success, which oversees the “It Takes a Village” Project at Elon University, the event featured musical selections by children involved in Elon University’s “Music in the Village” program and a poster presentation by college students during the noontime lunch.

Saturday marked the second annual “Village Talk” for educators, students, children and parents involved in a reading program that first started six years ago on Elon’s campus. The inaugural talk was held in December 2013 on the campus of Winston-Salem State University.

The “It Takes a Village” Project originated in 2008 as part of a reading methods course led by Associate Professor Jean Rattigan-Rohr. In its infancy, the “Village” paired Elon students studying to be teachers with children from the community who were struggling to read in their local elementary schools. The Elon students worked with parents to create at-home lesson plans and tutored the children once a week in a nearby public library.

Today, with increased numbers of students and families being served in Alamance County, Elon’s program now meets at the Burlington School. More than 400 students and their families are served across all five locations: Elon, UNC Greensboro, Winston-Salem State University, Concordia University in Portland, Ore., and the East Queens Street Church Evening Institute in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Village Project has also grown to encompass more than reading; at Elon University, it now features music, science, and a summer camp component to engage students in various forms of reading.

“I don’t think you can have a skill more important to the development of a child than reading,” Gerald Francis, Elon University’s executive vice president, said in his Saturday welcoming remarks to a McKinnon Hall audience of children, college students, parents and teachers. “If you give me a student who is a good reader and is good at mathmatics, everything else will take care of itself.

“I guarantee the community is going to benefit from the fruits of all your work,” he told the audience. “You’re doing something that is really, really important.”