COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Literacy serves as the foundation of education, and the ability to read and write well is critical to a child's success in school and beyond. As part of the Show Me Literacies Collaborative, University of Missouri researchers will collaborate with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to strengthen reading and writing skills for Missouri students in K-12 classrooms across the state.
The Missouri Language and Literacies Center, which will receive $2.75 million over 5 years to help early childhood educators extend family literacy practices into the classroom, is led by Angie Zapata, an associate professor in the MU College of Education.
"By partnering with teachers, students and their families, we want to tap into the languages and literacies that families already use in their homes as resources for learning to read and write," Zapata said. "Our goal is to enhance early childhood classrooms by being inclusive of the rich digital, visual and multilingual literacies our Missouri children and families bring."
A daughter of Peruvian immigrants, Zapata was an elementary school teacher of multilingual students in Texas before joining the MU College of Education in 2013. Her research aims to support early career teachers with reading and writing initiatives that incorporate the increasingly diverse backgrounds of students in Missouri classrooms.
"This work is both a professional passion and personal love for me, as I think of the children in my own life who I see functioning in this really dynamic landscape," Zapata said. "When I think of the 3-year old kids with an iPad in one hand and a crayon in the other, I realize they are living in an environment with so many language and literacy resources at their disposal. So, how can we leverage and integrate those resources into the classroom so that those languages and literacies are sustained in school as well?"
The Missouri Writing Projects Network, which will receive $2.7 million over 5 years to help elementary, middle and high school teachers develop and implement literacy plans, is led by Amy Lannin, an associate professor in the MU College of Education and director of MU's Campus Writing Program.
"Through professional development initiatives, we can provide reading and writing support for teachers, especially at the elementary, middle school and high school level," Lannin said. "By creating collaborative and sustained learning opportunities, we can help students engage in reading and writing practices every day that will help them as engaged citizens over the course of their lives."
Before coming to MU, Lannin spent 11 years as a middle and high school English teacher in Nebraska. Her passion for teaching and mentorship will help teachers feel more supported and improve both reading and writing skills for Missouri students.
"The programs from this grant project can help teachers expand their network and find those professional connections to support them," Lannin said. "By creating these programs to help teachers succeed, they will be more likely to stay with the profession and positively impact the students they mentor."
Funding for the grants was provided by the US Department of Education to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The 5-year, $18 million project establishes a statewide partnership between DESE and the Show Me Literacies Collaborative, which includes MU's Missouri Language and Literacies Center, the Missouri Writing Project, the Missouri Reading Initiative, as well as teams from the University of Central Missouri and University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Note: MU will work in conjunction with DESE to provide services to schools who are awarded these services through a competitive sub-grant process. Missouri's public and charter schools may apply for grant services to be provided by DESE in partnership with the UM System.