‘Chatham Reads’ just one part of Chatham Education Foundation’s local work

Posted 9/23/21

Jaime Detzi, the executive director of the Chatham Education Foundation, says she’s always had a passion for public education. She …

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‘Chatham Reads’ just one part of Chatham Education Foundation’s local work

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Jaime Detzi, the executive director of the Chatham Education Foundation, says she’s always had a passion for public education. She supports students in Chatham through her job at CEF and other volunteer roles within the county. She and her husband Chris have three children.

In this conversation, Detzi talks about the foundation’s work, its recent Chatham Reads project, and a unique fundraiser CEF will have in October.

Help us understand what “Chatham Reads” is and what your objectives were for your “Day of Service” event last Wednesday…

Chatham Reads is a county-wide collaborative, co-led by the Chatham Education Foundation and Chatham County Schools. We have over 15 non-profit and community partners all working together to meet our goals. One goal, in the short term, is to provide equitable access to the learning and literacy resources necessary for students to grow in literacy skills annually. Our second, longer-term goal, is an increase in the number of Chatham County students reading proficiently by the 3rd grade.

A part of this effort to increase reading proficiency is book access. Statistics show that two-thirds of low-income families have few, if any, books in their homes. Chatham Reads operates book drives multiple times each year for gently used books. We then bring volunteers together, as we did with the United Way Day of Service, to sort the books by genre and age appropriateness and then distribute them to schools, preschools and families through our partner organizations.

What is an Early Learning Collaborative, and how can that benefit Chatham County children?

An Early Learning Collaborative brings key players together from the early learning environment (preschools and home based child care) and elementary school staff to better support students and families in school readiness and the transition to kindergarten.

Research suggests that transition to kindergarten activities lead to an increase in student growth and achievement. By increasing communications and strong relationships between early learning centers and elementary schools we can benefit the family, the students and staff of Chatham County.

Why are partnerships like this so critical for academic and life success?

On the surface, it would seem that increasing the number of students reading proficiently by the 3rd grade would be an accountability metric to assess the strength of instruction in Chatham County Schools. However, if you know the importance of early learning, you know that brain development begins at birth; 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age 5. Brain development in the early years of life impacts a child’s future cognitive, physical, social, emotional and behavioral development. With community-wide, county support for families by providing appropriate and engaging resources, caregivers could keep a child’s development on track, which would result in an increased number of students reading proficiently. Our partnerships currently focus on:

• School readiness

• Summer Learning Loss

• Family/community engagement

We know we are stronger when working together and we want to ensure all families in Chatham County have the resources and opportunities their kids need to succeed.

Another project you’re pursuing involves a Family and Community Engagement working group. You’re a parent and you work with parents and schools through CEF. What do parents need to know about the value of reading and books as they’re raising children?

As a parent, and non-educator, I don’t think I truly understood that the amount I spoke and read to my children was so important for their future development. Now that I have been involved in this work for over seven years, I have read many research articles and I can clearly see the connection. The simple act of reading to your child 15-20 minutes per day not only helps you bond with your child, but increases their vocabulary, shows them new experiences through stories, increases their concentration and in the end, let’s hope, gives them a love of reading.

Through our Chatham Reads partners, we want to make sure families in Chatham County have the resources they need to read engaging books to their kids daily and thanks to many of our community members, we are making that happen, one book at a time.

Chatham Reads has created a Starting Force for Universal pre-K working group. How would increased access to quality pre-K help the students and families here in Chatham County?

In Chatham, and throughout the nation, kindergarten readiness plays a role in 3rd grade reading proficiency and future success. Each and every student that enters Chatham County Schools will be met right where they are, and our schools work tirelessly to ensure the success of each student. That said, providing more students with the option to attend a high-quality preschool is an important opportunity that can lead to academic success.

Chatham Reads brought together a Starting Force to work on increasing access to quality pre-K here in Chatham. Members include the Chatham Education Foundation, Chatham County Schools, Chatham Partnership for Children, Chatham County Government, Department of Social Services, Head Start, Kids Scope, and Central Carolina Community College.

It is our goal over the next six months to complete a study to evaluate the pre-K experience of families here in Chatham, to find barriers to access for families and determine the next steps to offer more opportunities. While we are unsure where the data will lead us, our group is dedicated to the families of Chatham and increasing the opportunities for all families, regardless of geography and economic status.

The CEF has a fundraiser coming up soon — something that’s pretty unique. Tell us about the virtual wine tasting you’re having on Oct. 9.

We have been given a great opportunity to have a world known wine writer and educator, Kevin Zraly, host a virtual wine tasting event from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 9.

In 1976, Kevin worked to build the largest and best wine list the world has ever seen at Windows of the World atop the World Trade Center. Kevin worked at Windows of the World until the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

You can enjoy an engaging evening from the comfort of your own home. Each ticket will include a virtual admission, four fine wines, a hand crafted and expertly prepared charcuterie tray and an autographed copy of Kevin Zraly’s 35th edition of his best selling wine guide, “Windows of the World Complete Wine Course.” We hope you can all join us. Please visit http://ow.ly/TtGe50G7rG0 to purchase a ticket.

If you have any questions about Chatham Reads, please contact our Program Manager Kathy Havens at kathy@cefmail.org, or visit our website at https://www.chathameducationfoundation.org.


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