A Three-Year Partnership Proves Successful


After three years of growth within The Literacy Cooperative, Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland is ready to reach out on its own. 

September marks the end of a 3-year Bruening Foundation grant that funded a full-time Literacy Cooperative staff member and other expenses related to supporting Reach Out and Read. Reach Out and Read will continue serving children and families in Greater Cleveland through a partnership with Cleveland Public Library.

For the last three years, Lynn Foran, a Literacy Cooperative employee, served as the coordinator of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland (RORGC). Before her leadership, the 20+ year old organization was completely volunteer-run, but the Bruening Foundation saw an opportunity for growth facilitated by The Literacy Cooperative.

“We knew we wanted to host RORGC with an organization connected to the community, especially as it pertains to early literacy – and that was The Literacy Cooperative,” said Jeanine Gergel of Foundation Management Services, which services The Bruening Foundation.

Gergel said the nearly fifteen-year history of The Literacy Cooperative being Greater Cleveland’s convening agent for partners in literacy made the organization an obvious choice.

The grant is a part of Bruening’s Strong Start initiative, designed to “reduce poverty and expand economic prosperity in Cuyahoga County by investing in efforts that help disadvantaged families ensuring that every child gets a strong start in life.”

It aligns with the mission of Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland, which is to provide a foundation for success through pediatric care, using books and reading aloud to impact the health and development of children and families.

Foran works across the region’s health systems to help pediatricians, family medicine doctors, and nurse practitioners incorporate early literacy guidance into regular checkups and to distribute important information about early literacy and brain development. At each regular visit through the five-year-old checkup, the family has a conversation with their child’s medical provider about how and why it is important to read aloud with their young child, and the child goes home with a new book.

Research finds that children served by Reach Out and Read score three to six months ahead of others on their vocabulary tests because they are regularly read aloud to. Early foundational language skills like this help children begin strong on a path of success.

One of The Literacy Cooperative’s focus areas is to help support families during their child’s first five years of life and identifying the appropriate message and appropriate messenger is critical. Pediatricians are a trusted source of information for families.

“When Jeanine Gergel and I first talked about this funding it was really a win-win situation,” said Bob Paponetti, President & CEO of The Literacy Cooperative. “We were able to help fortify an already impressive organization and test whether we could leverage the relationship pediatricians have with families to connect them to other important resources in the community.”

The results proved that The Literacy Cooperative and Reach Out and Read could do just that.

Over the past three years, Foran has grown Reach Out and Read Greater Cleveland from 23 health system sites to 33 and has facilitated the distribution of 86,000 new books and doctor-parent conversations.

“Having that pediatrician aspect is so important, and The Literacy Cooperative knows that,” Paponetti said. “We need to reach parents and let them know how important reading is to childhood development. We don’t have a relationship with them – but the doctors do. And most parents trust their doctor.”

The organizations worked together with Pre4CLE, Starting Point, and Invest in Children to form the Preschool Prescription initiative. The goal is to increase awareness of and enrollment at quality preschools through pediatrician recommendations using “The Night Before Preschool” book given at the doctor’s office. Since its start, more families are calling Starting Point to learn about quality preschool and enrollment has risen.

Dr. Robert Needlman founded ROR, a national organization, in 1989. He said the partnership with The Literacy Cooperative strengthened Reach Out and Read to be recognized as a critical part of the literacy landscape. 

In 2017, soon after Foran joined The Literacy Cooperative, it became the local affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. In this program an enrolled child receives a brand new, age-appropriate book in the mail monthly until their fifth birthday. Foran led the design, implementation, and rollout of the program in the Cleveland area during her time at The Literacy Cooperative.

“It was a wonderful collaboration,” Needlman said. “Lynn was able to utilize the Reach Out and Read provider network to connect the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program and integrated the new Preschool Prescription initiative into doctor’s offices to benefit Pre4Cle and Starting Point’s work. We wouldn’t have been able to do it on our own.”

Every month, Dr. Needlman, Foran and Paponetti met to discuss the partnership and future goals. Paponetti said those regular meetings were critical to the success of the partnership – and in the end, launched a partnership that truly supports both organizations’ mission.

In August, Foran took on new responsibilities as Executive Director of ROR Greater Cleveland. Although she is leaving The Literacy Cooperative as a staff member, she will continue as a strong partner. She said she’s excited to watch the organization expand from the connections she’s made in the community, as well as continue collaboration with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and The Literacy Cooperative.

“I’m excited to help more parents understand the importance of reading to a child,” Foran said. “A child’s education begins at birth when the brain is rapidly developing. Snuggling up with an infant, toddler or preschooler to share a book is a joyful way to feed a young brain. Start early, too – don’t wait until they can bring you a book.”

More information about The Literacy Cooperative can be found at www.literacycooperative.org and Reach Out and Read information can be found at http://www.reachoutandreadgc.org/


One of the most valuable lessons a child or teenager can receive is instruction on how to handle their finances – not just for today, but for decades to come. The key to making smart financial decisions stems from knowledge and experience, and many young adults lack both.

Educating our youth in financial literacy is a key challenge for parents, teachers, and the education system in general. Despite its importance in a teen’s future, financial literacy doesn’t get the attention it deserves. As teens prepare for college, many of them haven’t learned the necessary financial basics. Why is that?

There Is a Vacuum in Financial Literacy Education

While awareness has increased recently, financial literacy is still an underserved education topic in middle schools, high schools, and even at home.

To put it in perspective, the United States ranked 7 out of 15 countries who participated in an international financial literacy test for high school students. The Treasury Department claimed less than a third of adults were ever offered a financial literacy course through high school and college. A 2012-13 financial literacy exam revealed that young adults scored an average 58% with only about a quarter of participants scoring over a 70%.

Furthermore, some studies show that parents neglect to talk about money matters such as paying bills, saving money, budgeting, and more with their kids. One report showed that 69% of parents were reluctant to discuss money with their children. The same report indicated that only 23% of kids reported talking to their parents about money often.

Why Is It Such a Big Deal?

Experience is the best teacher, right? It normally would be if the consequences weren’t so severe and far-reaching. When a teenager turns 18, the world opens to them, and so does the potential for disastrous financial decisions.

New environments, such as a college dorm or their first apartment, can lead to poor choices when they aren’t educated about money matters. They may apply for credit cards and use them irresponsibly. Not to mention, many young adults take out student loans without much thought to paying them later. Many neglect to build a savings account.

According to the Financial Educators Council, 39% of adults don’t have any non-retirement savings. 56% of adults don’t have a budget, and tellingly, 76% of college students wanted more help preparing for their financial futures. At the same time,

Some of those early money mistakes could be avoided if teens knew more about financial matters when they began their adult life. A few bad mistakes could lead to bad credit or a huge amount of debt that could take them years to clean up.

Get It Right Early On

It pays to get it right the first time. The earlier referenced Treasure Department report also claimed that adults who were offered financial education also had greater net worth, higher rates of saving, and larger regular retirement account contributions.

Financial literacy education doesn’t need to be complicated, and covering the basics is a good place to start. Here are just a few general habits to discuss.

Proper Credit Building Habits

Teens should learn the basics of credit cards, credit score, and credit building. They should understand how a credit card works and why you need to spend with it. They should know how to pay off a credit card balance and what happens when missing a payment. And they need to know how interest rates increase their expenses. All these lessons can be applied to other forms of debt.

Furthermore, understanding how debt levels, regular payments, and missed payments impact their credit score. On top of that, explain what a credit score means and how it impacts decisions for the future.

Basic Budgeting and Savings Skills

Knowing what a credit score is important, but it’s equally important to build finance management skills in general. These skills include learning how to cut expenses, saving money to pay bills on time, and how to manage multiple obligations. It can give your child the motivation to stay within their budget because they’ll know that overspending can lead them into serious debt over time.

Learning how to save money goes together with budgeting. This starts with opening a bank account and devoting a percentage of a paycheck or allowance to it. Learning about the importance of saving money is also a stepping block to understanding retirement accounts, emergency savings, and more.

Building a Future of Knowledge

Unlike some subjects in college and high school, financial literacy education instills lifelong skills to be used throughout your career. A foundation of financial knowledge will help young adults avoid making costly, derailing mistakes and instead make constructive, proactive decisions for the future. A little education now could also be a springboard for further curiosity. It could inspire your child to keep self-educating themselves about finances in the years to come.

Andrew is a Content Associate for LendEDU – a website that helps consumers, college graduates, high school students, small business owners, and more with their finances.

Balancing the Pressures of Life as an Adult College Student and Parent

Leaving the Stress at School

College is a lot of work. With classes to attend, papers to write, homework to complete, and notes to write, it can be more stressful than a full time job. Being a parent is also a full time job. You must feed your children, keep them clean, teach them about the world around them, and pay attention to them. When you combine the pressures of college with the stresses of parenting, you end up with what sometimes seems like an unbearable amount of stress.

Maintaining our mental and physical health is so important, but this can be difficult to accomplish when you are so busy. If you make healthy lifestyle choices you will have an easier time focusing and putting quality work into the activities in which you partake (as a parent, and a student). One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to find ways to de-stress. In order to give both your studies and your children the quality care and attention they deserve, this article shares some tips on how you can optimize your time and reduce your stress! Your physical, mental, and emotional health must be optimal to ensure that you provide quality care to your child and are still able to fully dedicate yourself to school. Here are some specific ways in which you can ensure that you’re in peak physical and mental condition.

Get Enough Sleep

You can’t mix work and sleep. Don’t do homework or classwork in your bedroom, in other words, you should dedicate that room to rest and relaxation. You should also avoid doing work within an hour before bed. This will help get your mind in a relaxed place ready to “turn off” for the night. Getting a proper amount of sleep is extremely important to ensure that you are healthy and well-rested, if you are exhausted, you won’t be able to focus on your studies.

Establishing a bedtime routine, keeping your sleeping space cleaned, taking cbd oils, or meditating can be a great way to ease yourself to sleep. As a parent, it may be very hard to get enough sleep, as children tend to keep parents up all night. Taking some of these steps to ensure that you get some solid sleep will make a world of difference in how you can perform when you are awake.

Take Time For Yourself

Along with getting a good night’s sleep, it also helps to take time for yourself each day while you are awake. Having a skincare routine, taking baths, and reading are great ways to have time to yourself while also taking a break from the day and being productive at the same time. We all need time without our children that are not spent in the classroom sometimes. Make sure you still carve out time to spend time with friends and family to give you a social outlet too. Having someone else watch your children is good for you, and actually really good for them as it allows them to become familiar and comfortable with other people.

Watch Your Health

On a busy day when you have been in class, driven all over the town and picked up all the kids, it is so easy to grab fast food and forget about exercising. In reality, you so badly need the proper energy to keep up with everything going on in your life. Nutritious foods will keep you full and keep your body working well. Lots of fast foods can weaken your immune system, and you will be more likely to fall ill and miss work, school, and quality time with your children.

On the same hand, you should strive to stay in good shape! There are many online workout routines that you can do right from home, but going to the gym may be a good way to have some alone time. Watching your health will set a good example for your children, and you will teach them from a young age that eating well and exercising properly is important.

Keep Your Children Busy

While you are at school, your children could take part in a sport, music class, or other hobby. It can be really beneficial for them to learn a skill now – one that they may take with them throughout life. Many colleges also offer childcare services, so contact your college to see if they have any such programs. Keeping children busy can help to educate them while you are receiving an education yourself. It’s a win-win situation!

Spend Time with Them

Taking time for yourself should never make you feel guilty, because a g and have enough time to focus on your studies, you can’t miss too much quality time with your children. The relationship that a child has with its parent carries throughout all of their life, and how you and your child interact now can set them up for success in the future. Go to the zoo, take them to the park, and play games with them. Explore new places with them. This will really help your children to get the most out of their childhood, and they will be incredibly grateful for that in the future.

This guest post is contributed by Piper McIntosh. You can reach her at piperlmcintosh@gmail.com.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Gains $5 Million in State Funds

Governor Mike DeWine signed a new State of Ohio budget into law last week, which includes funds to support Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The budget grants $5 million to support Imagination Library across the state. The funds will cover a portion of the cost of books and mailing. This support helps pave the path for every child under the age of five in Cuyahoga County and the State of Ohio to receive a brand new, age-appropriate book in the mail every month. The program is free for families.

Bob Paponetti, CEO and President of The Literacy Cooperative, spoke with WTAM’s Mike Snyder and Bill Wills Wednesday morning about this important step toward increasing early literacy and promoting a love of reading.

“It’s clear that this is changing what’s happening in the home,” Paponetti said. “Families are reading more together as a result of getting these books.

This is the first time Ohio’s Imagination Library program has had provisions in the state budget.

Listen to the full interview below and sign up for the program here.

Increasing Parent Engagement Will Secure Your Child a Better Future

When we’re discussing parent engagement, we’re talking about efforts made by parents which directly contribute to a child’s success in school and subsequently, in life. It’s an idea based on the collaboration between parents and school staff with the goal of improving the development of children.

The idea itself is not very new. We’ve known for over 120 years that parents and teachers should work together and the rich history of the National Parent Teacher Association is the proof of that. However, the relationship in that alliance has evolved significantly in the last couple of decades and the positive effects of parent engagement are duly recognized in the scientific community.

How Does It Benefit Your Child?

Research has shown that engaging parents in their child’s education can be very valuable for the child in more ways than one. Numerous studies support the thesis that parent engagement increases academic achievement through improved school attendance, higher grades, and better test scores. This effect is produced by a number of factors, which include setting high expectations, developing useful routines and habits, creating an environment that encourages learning, building a warm and cooperative home setting, and actively supporting the child   All of these factors also contribute to the parent as a strong role model.

But parent engagement affects child development beyond these school-defined conditions and it can also help build desirable character traits. Having engaged parents can inspire more positive attitudes towards particular subjects and reduce the risk of children getting involved with substance abuse and problematic behavior. Lastly, it increases confidence and helps children become more well-adjusted.

Types of Parent Engagement

A great way for differentiating between different types of parent engagement is through the use of Dr. Joyce Epstein’s Framework. She recognizes six types of parental involvement:

  1. Parenting – establishing a proper home environment that provides the child with optimal learning conditions
  2. Communicating – creating effective, two-way channels of communication between parents and the school staff
  3. Volunteering – engaging parents in volunteering practices to help with school-related activities
  4. Learning at home – providing parents with helpful information which empowers them to take part in and contribute to home-learning activities
  5. Decision making – including parents in school-related decisions and providing them with a forum to express their opinions
  6. Collaborating with community – utilizing community resources to improve school practices and student learning

Since parent engagement is a team effort, both the parents and the school bear the responsibility of taking an active approach. There is plenty that can be done on each side of the partnership, but the primary condition is acting in good faith while acknowledging the importance these activities will have on child development.

What Can Teachers Do?

The school normally reaches out to the parents and establishes channels of communication, but that doesn’t mean it always should. The teacher’s role in parent engagement is consultative but with high demands for taking initiative. They should actively partake in all of the 6 types of parent engagement because their expertise is invaluable in these situations.

Building strong and personal relationships around mutual goals are key for making all other attempts impactful and efficient. If you succeed to make this the foundation, you can build on it by consulting or educating parents. Invite them to learn more about what’s going on at school and give them a chance to influence the decisions that are being made. The parents will also be more open to engaging in school activities and volunteering if they are better acquainted with you and your goals. Finally, try to build the momentum of cooperative spirit by including the community’s resources to improve the learning experiences of children.

What Can Parents Do?

Any activity a parent engages in with a goal of improving their child’s education is a valid topic for discussion with teachers, including some of the other members of the school staff. So whatever you do, try to make an effort to seek out and utilize their council. They’re experienced in education, well-acquainted with your child’s situation and might have some insights about your child’s behavior you aren’t aware of.

One of the suggestions for parents is todevelop the right environment for their children. Children will spend a vast majority of their time at home. But just because they’re not at school doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be learning. At home with our kids, we can provide them with a relaxed and informal way of getting to know the world  and its intricacies. There are many ways in which you can create a great learning environment at home.

Parents should also work on communicating with their children. Start by simply talking more often and work your way up the ladder. You can even create daily routines that will allow you an opportunity to talk to one another or adjust the existing ones where talking won’t distract you from what you’re doing. Chores and mealtimes are a great place to start. Be sure to show interest in their activities and praise effort over results.

What’s Stopping You from Being More Engaged in Your Child’s Education?

A  parent’s greatest joy is to see their child grow and learn. We want them to be confident, responsible and develop habits for being productive in the workplace of tomorrow. Most of us are aware that we can contribute to our child’s education, yet we’re not always choosing to do so. Is it that we’re too tired from working all day and we can’t focus because our energy levels are running low? Or is it that we think they’ll be better off if they do it all by themselves? It’s an interesting question to ask, and it is one that can shed light on what we prioritize over our child’s education.

Studies show our engagement can improve our child’s chances of success but how engaged should we get? The answer may change based on a given situation, but parent engagement certainly needs to be a balanced effort. Your best bet is probably staying somewhere in the middle, trying not to fall into the trap of being too careless with your child, but still allowing them room to grow and explore.

AuthorBio: Mark is a biz-dev hero at Invoicebus – a simple invoicing service that gets your invoices paid faster. He passionately blogs on topics that help small biz owners succeed in their business. He is also a lifelong learner who practices mindfulness and enjoys long walks in nature more than anything else.