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Campus visit sows seeds
of future for inner city kids
May 3, 1999

ifteen second-graders from Hartford's Kinsella Community School patiently await Chandra Weber's next question.

"How do you start writing a book?" asks Weber, a graduate student in education and an intern at the Dodd Center. Hands fly into the air.

"You draw the pictures," says a youngster in a plaid shirt. "Put the cover on," shouts another. "Do the words," adds yet another child. Today, the children from Hartford's inner city are learning how books are published - from idea to the library shelves. The activity is part of "Right on Reading," a literacy workshop inspired by the University's Year of Reading. "Right on Reading" weaves the University's diverse resources into a program promoting literacy in daily and academic life. Fifty second graders participated in the workshop's three sessions April 27.

Weber poses another question. "How do you decide what you're going to write?" she asks. Most of the youngsters look puzzled. Suddenly a hand pops up. "Ideas," says Cwadasha McKay. The activity continues with Weber reading, How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski. The children also look at samples of Krupinski's original artwork from the Northeast Children's Literature Collection at the Dodd Center. A seed-planting activity concluded the session and each child was given a copy of the book.

Fifty second graders accompanied by their teachers, participated in the workshop, which was hosted by UConn staff and students. Many of the children in the workshop are tutored weekly at their school by students who volunteer as "Reading Buddies" for UConn's America Reads program.

The 50 youngsters were divided into three groups and rotated through three sessions. The activities included a behind-the-scenes look at macro-computing at the Computer Center; a little MAGIC at Homer Babbidge Library's Maps and Geographic Information Center and a lesson on book publishing at the Dodd Center. In the afternoon, participants toured Gampel Pavilion.

"Having the children come to campus, seeing where their mentors go to school and interacting with them in the college environment, gives them a concrete notion of what college is like," said Laura Palumbo, a volunteer with the Center for Community Outreach, who coordinates UConn's America Reads program. "Many of the students will not have had siblings or family members who have been to college."

Sarah Harris agrees. "The program gives the children a chance at being successful," says the second grade teacher at Kinsella. Many of the children have never been out of the Hartford area, she says.

Their visit to campus has planted the seeds for the children to see college as a possibility for their future. Harris said after the visit, one child asked, "Do you think I can really go there?"

"It was a very rewarding day," said Palumbo. "We had a hard time getting them on the bus - they didn't want to leave."

Sherry Fisher