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StoryBus Aims to Boost Literacy in 47th Ward Schools

By Patty Wetli | September 11, 2013 7:47am
 The StoryBus curriculum builds literacy among young readers.
The StoryBus curriculum builds literacy among young readers.
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Facebook/America's Children's Museum on Wheels: StoryBus

LINCOLN SQUARE — In the wake of a record number of school closings and severe CPS budget cuts, it's "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" to the rescue.

The story is one of four popular tales included in the StoryBus enrichment curriculum, which Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) and his Grow 47 initiative are bringing to the ward's neighborhood elementary schools for pre-K and kindergarten students.

Pawar piloted the program at four schools in 2012 (including Courtenay, which has since moved to Uptown) and said his intention is to get a "couple of these enrichment programs in place each year at every school.”

With additional grant funding and collaboration among local school councils and "Friends of" fundraising groups, StoryBus is expanding in 2013 to all six neighborhood schools: Audubon, Bell, Coonley, McPherson, Ravenswood and Waters.

"We've put it all together," Pawar said. "Now we're going to get out of the principals' way. Each school and LSC will figure out what works best for their school."

StoryBus builds a semester's worth of activities around classic children's stories like "Goldilocks" or "The Three Little Pigs" and trains educators on how to incorporate the stories into their daily lesson plans.

"The Little Red Hen," for example, provides an opportunity to talk about all the different kinds of breads found in different cultures. Or "Goldilocks" can spark a discussion about where in the world different bears can be found.

The lesson Pawar has in mind is more along the lines of "all for one and one for all."

StoryBus is "great for the kids," he said, but it also shows what can happen "when LSCs and 'Friends of' groups come together."

Sharing resources is part of Pawar's vision of creating a complete kindergarten-to-12th-grade school system within the 47th Ward, which includes Lake View High School.

The year-long reading program will culminate in a visit from the actual StoryBus, a children's museum on wheels.

Pawar is working to also bring the bus to community events such as Halloween block parties as a way to reach out to families who may not have a child enrolled at their local elementary school.

"It's a way to get parents connected to neighborhood schools," he said.