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How your sponsorship fills a crucial niche for a vulnerable audience: Maryland’s Middle Schoolers

As a children’s author, I love writing for kids and delight in igniting a zest of reading and a passion for animals among this young audience. Though I’m working on my 14th book, I clearly recognize that my voice is an adult’s voice. There is a desperate Talks need for kids to write for kids. Peer-to-peer communication, particularly among middle school students, is niche that we can easily help fill.

–Jennifer Keats Curtis

Thank you for your interest in becoming a sponsor of MY-Say, a nonprofit venture among the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC), Maryland Library Association (MLA), Maryland educators, and children’s author Jennifer Keats Curtis.

SUMMARY

Tweens and teens are coming into their own – their own perspectives, attitudes, views, frustrations, and ideas about sports, music, family life, and school. But, where can middle schoolers express their thoughts through words and images in an appropriate and educational format?

In Maryland, a group of educators and a children’s author have found the perfect place. Reading specialists, teachers, and literacy experts of the State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC) and the Maryland Library Association (MLA) have joined forces with award-winning author Jennifer Keats Curtis to create MY-Say, a free digital magazine designed to promote literacy, creativity, and expression by and among Maryland’s middle school students.

This particular age group, 11- to 14 year-olds, are often stuck in the middle, a forgotten crowd of writers and readers. For the first time, they now have a just-for-them online space that harbors topics of relevance and real interest.  Parents, teachers, and librarians (in-school and at public libraries) have a trusted website to refer kids to for authentic, age-appropriate text and images that will serve them equally as educators.

This nonprofit online publication, written by Maryland middle schoolers for their same-aged peers, addresses the literacy needs of a vulnerable segment of our population. Research clearly indicates that reading skills are essential for success, not just in school, but in life. A 2010 report from the Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates (ICAS) notes: While numerous research projects examine transfer patterns, graduation rates or mathematics and English course success rates, it appears we are overlooking a key ingredient necessary for fundamental academic and workforce success–reading.

Reading for fun is taking a backseat to video games and TV; and, it comes at an age when kids really need to read. Research clearly indicates that reading skills are essential for school success. Some middle school students excel at math but don’t possess the rudimentary skills to properly determine what a math question is posing. Allowing tweens and teens to read their fellow Fake Ray Bans students’ expressions and allowing these children to have a voice of their own can make a profound impact on their lives and the lives of their peers.

Research data from the National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES) reveals a decline in reading at the same time the National Endowment for the Arts and other key organizations describe essential links between reading, socioeconomic opportunity, and Cheap Jordan Sale civic involvement. In Maryland, the story is the same. This year’s Maryland State Assessment math scores for middle school students improved slightly while reading scores declined.

This project’s goals are to:

  • Motivate students to read

  • Provide a voluntary reading opportunity, unique to this group

  • Show–rather than cheap jerseys tell–kids why history is fun, science is engaging and why math matters

  • Create an extraordinary opportunity to get published

  • Extend the skill Ray Ban sale set of student contributors

  • Provide contributors with the unique experience to work under the guidance of an experienced journalist.

  • Serve as a safe vehicle for adolescents, 24/7, to communicate through a variety of writing styles and to enable all middle schoolers the opportunity to read peers’ works on topics that interest them.

MY-Say is a cost-effective communication vehicle helps address the decline in reading among middle school students by providing “cool,” student-generated, teacher approved materials that tweens and teens want to read. Talented young reporters, artists, poets, photographers, and cartoonists are working with a teacher or parent and Ms. Curtis and are being recognized for their efforts.

For each issue, middle school students are selected by Ms. Curtis for assigned articles on a wide range of topics, including health, sports, history, interesting people, and book reviews. With the help of parents and teachers, middle schoolers also query her to suggest story ideas, art, and images for publication. As editor, Ms. Curtis meets regularly with educational advisors to ensure that all content is of high quality and appropriate for this age group. She also works directly with educators, parents, and students to brainstorm topics, discuss sources, edit materials, and gather images and photos.

Visibility for the Magazine and for Sponsors

Communication about the online magazine and the publication of each issue is an integral component of this plan. The advisors and Ms. Curtis directly communicate with principals, teachers, media specialists, and PTA members in 10 counties—Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Wicomico, and Worcester—as well as Baltimore City and Maryland public libraries to ensure students, teachers, and parents know about the magazine, where to read it, and how to participate in upcoming issues.

Communication via email, postal mail, and social media before and after the website is updated is increasing traffic to the website. Contests also encourage participation and the editor is working with businesses to solicit prizes. In the first issue, a middle schooler won four passes to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. In the current issue, middle schoolers are competing for four passes to the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons Island.

In addition, Ms. Curtis regularly visits elementary schools around the state (approximately 30 visits annually) and speaks at family events in museums and nonprofits as well as at meetings for educators. She discusses the crucial need for middle schoolers to have this type of outlet and the benefits of MY-Say during those presentations and meetings.

Key Sponsor Benefits

  • High visibility.

  • Inclusion in all public relations materials. Quarterly direct email to Maryland middle school principals and teachers, inclusion in Maryland middle school newsletters as well as traditional and social media, including family magazines. Local press has recently chosen to re-run several articles in their entirety.

  • Banners, handouts, and table recognition at SoMIRAC and MLA annual conferences and select events.

  • Ms. Curtis visits about 30 elementary schools each year and discusses the magazine and its sponsors during her presentations. She reaches thousands of students and teachers each year through these school visits.

  • Website inclusion

  • Marketing rollouts

  • Opportunity to reutilize work in the sponsor’s marketing and educational rollouts. Sponsors may choose to work with Ms. Curtis and a student to write an article pertaining to financial literacy, a key component of Maryland’s school curriculum. For example, “Money Management for Teenagers” is an ideal fit. Once completed and published, these student-written materials may be used by the sponsor for marketing and educational purposes.

Sponsor packages individualized upon request.

Funding Needs

Because of the sensitive ages of these student readers and contributors, SoMIRAC board members are working diligently to fund the website through key sponsorships and grants, rather than direct advertisements. Ms. Curtis is leading SoMIRAC in the search of funds for this purpose.

BGE has become MY-Say’s first official sponsor. “As part of our commitment to building strong communities in central Maryland, BGE supports educational initiatives like the MY-Say publication that support and encourage students of all ages to work hard and develop skills that will help them contribute to the future growth and success of our society,” said Jeannette M. Mills, vice president and chief customer officer for BGE.  “Since its founding nearly 200 years ago, BGE has played an integral role in working with Maryland communities to address initiatives that help enhance our neighborhoods. Through the use of shareholder dollars, BGE supports programs that deliver measurable and sustainable impact in areas of energy efficiency and assistance, education, the environment, economic and community development, emergency response and safety.  SoMIRAC officials continue to seek sponsors, whose mission matches the goals of MY-Say, as a means of ensuring funding through 2014.

Packages start at $2,500.

Measuring Success

Success is Cheap Jordans Sale measured by the number of contributors per county, number of visits to the website, and ways in which the magazine is utilized as a part of classroom teaching. Reports about usage and publicity are provided to sponsors.

About SoMIRAC

Promoting literacy in Maryland since 1962, the nonprofit State of Maryland International Reading Association Council (SoMIRAC) is comprised of over 3,000 members in 16 active local councils. Members strive to improve the level of literacy in the state by: supporting the mission of the International Reading Association, disseminating best literacy practices to educators and parents, advocating for literacy issues through legislation and collaborating with educational institutions, professional organizations and businesses. Key initiatives include: the Family Literacy initiative; “Everyone Reads;” and the Young Authors’ contest.

About MLA

Founded in 1923, the Maryland Library Association (MLA) provides leadership for those who are committed to libraries by providing opportunities for professional development and communication and by advocating principles and issues related to librarianship and library service. Members are library staff and trustees, library school students, libraries, and friends of libraries representing the full spectrum of librarianship in Maryland. The Association is a state member of the American Library Association, with an elected chapter councilor serving on its governing board.

About Jennifer Keats Curtis

Veteran journalist and award-winning nature author Jennifer Keats Curtis is frequently found among students and teachers, talking about literacy and conservation. In addition to the Animal Helpers series, Baby Owl’s Rescue, and Turtles In My Sandbox for Sylvan Dell, other recent titles include Seahorses, Squirrel Rescue, Osprey Adventure and Saving Squeak: The Otter Tale. She serves as editor of MY-Say.

 

Maryland’s middle schoolers need you!

Ready to Become A Sponsor?

Please contact Jennifer Keats Curtis at jenniferkcurtis@verizon.net or 410.626.7657.