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Year in Review: Children’s Literacy

KSO Musical Storybook at the Huss Project Farm

It’s been another busy year at the Huss Project! For the next several weeks, we’ll highlight some of our work this year by focusing on different programming areas.

We launched our Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library affiliate during our Back to School Celebration in 2022. The Imagination Library sends books to children five and under every month free of charge to participating families. We became an affiliate because the Imagination Library is a perfect partner for Huss’ work to “grow imagination and friendship through food, art, and play.” A two-decade long study confirmed that the presence of a home library increases children’s academic success, vocabulary development, attention, and job attainment—making the Imagination Library a small piece of the puzzle to grow imagination and to support local families. Since our launch, we’ve signed up nearly 325 Three Rivers children for the program—including 54 who have already graduated. While the Dollywood Foundation provides significant support for the program, affiliates are responsible for fundraising for their service area. So far, we’ve supported this program through a small grant from the Three Rivers Area Community Foundation, our 2022 #GivingTuesday campaign, and a generous gift this year. But as more children sign up, of course, we need more financial resources to continue sending books to children. For example, our last mailing was $620. If you are interested in supporting this program, please click the donate button below!

In partnership with the Huss Education Collaborative—currently Three Rivers Area Mentoring (TRAM), Three Rivers Public Library, and the St. Joseph County Great Start Collaborative—we facilitated a variety of other children’s literacy programs this year. The Huss Project hosted three Musical Storybook performances by members of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra in the Children’s Area on our urban farm (see the picture above) during our Second Saturday Farmer’s Markets. Children actively participated in each Musical Storybook performance by playing rhythm instruments, singing responses, or performing motions. Every child in attendance also received a free copy of the book performed, which included The Pigeon Has to Go to School! by Mo Willems, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees, and Hum and Swish by Matt Myers. We also hosted an outdoor StoryWalk for five months, which featured a new book every month for five months that visitors could read while strolling our public green space at Huss. Books for the StoryWalk were chosen by TRAM students. These programs were largely funded by grant funding secured by our partners.

Participants for these and other programs hosted by partners in the city could track their attendance throughout the summer using our Summer Literacy Passport. Then kiddos could turn in their Passports at our Back to School Celebration to receive $10 in Huss Bucks, a gift certificate that could be used at the Huss Project Farmer’s Market, Lowry’s Books & More, World Fare, or Skate Dreams.

We sincerely appreciate all of the incredible work and support that makes these programs possible—from our staff, AmeriCorps VISTAs, partners, volunteers, and donors. If you’d like to provide financial support, click the donate button below. Thank you!