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Students get to meet book illustrator via an online chat

Participants in Dickens Reads literacy project find that technology helps them better understand the books they are reading

CLEVELAND — Right before all Ohio schools were closed due to coronavirus, 3News was invited to see how some Cleveland third graders struggling to read were being helped by using technology.

The principal of Charles Dickens Elementary School, Jocelyn Foster, was brought into leadership to change how students learn and improve test scores.

After seeing 3News' initial story on all third graders at the school needing extra help learning to read, Loretta Schwalm volunteered.

“They get their folders, they start talking about their day and they get right to work. They are so eager to learn and they want to read. They want to read to you."

Two weeks ago, the Cleveland Public Library helped schedule a unique opportunity for the students. The 2nd- and 3rd-graders got to take part in a Facebook chat with the illustrator of the book Feed Your Mind

Cannaday Chapman lives in Germany, but used to live and work in Cleveland.

“I’m really happy you guys like the book," he told the students during the chat. "I don’t know if anyone has any favorite images from the book that they really like? You did?!?”

Students say they need pictures as they learn to read.

“You look at the pictures to find out what’s going on in the story,” says Ashley.

Ashley also says the illustrator taught her and other students to take their time while learning.

“When you read, you have to have confidence in yourself and you can’t feel bad."

Students asked questions and listened eagerly during the online chat, learning about the process of how artwork helps tell the story in the book and using technology to connect the students to the material they read. 

The Dickens Reads literacy initiative is organized by WKYC studios, Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s News Bureau, Rhonda Crowder & Associates and DJ Phatty Banks, with support from a consortium of local foundations. 

Schools may be closed, but the Dickens Reads program continues online! Parents and students access a Facebook page for daily reading challenges and assignments. If you would like to get involved, please contact Margaret Bernstein at: mbernstei@wkyc.com.

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