A little less than a year ago, during my transfer to the Prekindergarten Department at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Capital Area, I noticed that the program lacked exposure. Our organization is well known for providing excellent and accessible after-school opportunities to community members of various age groups. However, the Universal Pre-K Program works during the morning hours and works closely with school districts; many community members and BGCCA supporters lacked awareness of the existence of the program.
Of course, at the busy beginning of the school year, our department had many priorities and showcasing program exposure to people other than collaborating partners, and parents was a low priority.
Despite it being a low priority, we have connected with Patrick Doyle and Claire Livezey Operations Department and Megan Grant from Marketing & Development. We brainstorm-ed innovative ideas that could require minimum effort, excellent exposure, low cost, and not a lot of coordination. At first, it seemed impossible, as all three departments had a lot of work at the beginning of the school year. However, there was a moment when we stopped thinking about ourselves, departments, and focused on the goal and the need for such exposure. Also, we looked at other in-house needs of our Pre-K students. Then voila! Increasing literacy and community engagement were to existing goals of our organization and the program itself. A couple of hours later, the Book Nook Program was born and was eligible for grants and donations!
Book Nook program aims to connect local community members with pre-k students as positive role models, increase literacy, social skills and introduce the community to all of the good things that are happening at our fantastic BGCCA Pre-K Program, and organization as a whole. Hoping that the outcomes will not just be the above, but also increase the visibility of the great diverse community and perhaps drive some contributions towards the initiative and the program. Community members would volunteer to read books to our students, engage in conversations about themselves, and reflective discussions about the content of the book. In the end, each participating class would get a copy of the book that was read to be added to their classroom library.
Thankfully the program has run many Book Nook events at multiple locations we collaborate to provide Universal Prekindergarten at the City School District of Albany. Guest readers interacted with the students, shared family photos, personal experiences, and read purposeful and relatable books to our beloved students. A delightful highlight of the Book Nook program was that it was open to hosting any community members, but when the word got out, we have had the great pleasure of host local influential personalities like Mayor of Albany, Kathy Sheehan, The head of Albany Latin Festival Association, Mr. Flores, Assembly members John McDonald and Patricia Fahy, and many more!
From my personal experience, cross-functional operations within any organization could be hectic and time-consuming. However, after our first event, things tended to be accomplished seamlessly, one event after another as we developed to process and roles in place. I have to admit; given my busy schedule, I wasn't able to attend all of the Book Nook events, but my teammates were able to deliver the impactful vision we all agreed on.
Now that the school year has ended, I finally had the chance to reflect on this simple, yet effective initiative we came up with as a cross-functional team. I am excited to see this sub-program grow in the future and not just be accessible for our Pre-K program, but for all of our other programs like afterschool, summer camps, and teen programs.
I the end I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Claire & Megan, our Pre-K teachers, students and all of our Book Nook guest readers. We hope that you return next year, and spread the word to all of your friends and family members.