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SHECP and the Atlanta Speech School Announce Partners for Childhood Literacy Conference

July 12, 2016 — The Cleveland Clinic, the National Community Action Foundation, and Kennesaw State University will be Partners for the July 30 symposium at the Atlanta Speech School on Childhood Literacy as a Public Health and Economic Imperative.  As least six participants from each of these institutions will be involved in this day of talks and discussion culminating with a working banquet for all of the participants to contribute to the next practical steps that we need to take in order to increase childhood literacy and diminish the literacy gap between higher income and lower income families. Each of these three institutions has a different role in increasing childhood literacy and a representative from each institution will briefly introduce, at the symposium working banquet, its work and why this issue is among its urgent concerns.

The Cleveland Clinic, founded in 1921, has become one of the nation’s leading healthcare systems, serving patients throughout the world but with a special focus on families of Cleveland and environs. Alan L. Hull, MD, PhD, associate dean for curricular affairs at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, has led a group of medical students from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine Program and the Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine to participate in important components of the Shepherd Consortium, including the symposium on Childhood Literacy.

The National Community Action Foundation (NCAF), founded in 1981 to “ensure that the federal government honors its commitment to fighting poverty, especially through the work of Community Action Agencies,” has supported Head Start programs since its inception. The Community Action network’s close to 1000 agencies support a variety of poverty-fighting programs, including Head Start, Early-Head Start and other unique services to promote literacy. Among many goals, NCAF seeks knowledge and opportunities to improve provisions for childhood literacy among children from vulnerable families and neighborhoods.

David Bradley, CEO of the National Community Action Foundation, believes that “in order to successfully address childhood literacy, a strong Community Action network, and inspired affiliates, are needed. Through working together, we can better address this problem at the community level and as a greater society.” David hopes that all attendees will leave with increased knowledge and added inspiration to improve childhood literacy nationwide.

Kennesaw State University is a comprehensive university recognized for its entrepreneurial spirit, global engagement and sense of community. As Georgia’s third-largest university and one of the 50 largest public universities in the country, Kennesaw State offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. Kennesaw State is committed to becoming a world-class academic institution with emphasis on academic excellence in teaching, research and scholarship, as well as on expanded local, national and global engagement.

Lance Askildson, Vice Provost for Global Affairs, and Chief International Office at Kennesaw State University, initiated this partnership with the purpose of enhancing Kennesaw State’s relationships with other like-minded institutions in the area of literacy, and of using these best practices for possible future international programs involving the university’s various colleges and stakeholders.

The Atlanta Speech School is a sponsor and the host for the symposium on childhood literacy that features Maryanne Wolf from Tufts University, Greg J. Duncan from the University of California at Irvine, Marcia Carson from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Walter Gilliam from Yale University as speakers. They will be working with the participants at the symposium to develop a working agenda to diminish childhood literacy, which is at the core of the Atlanta Speech School mission.

The Atlanta Speech School has evolved over its 78 years into one of the nation’s most comprehensive centers for language and literacy – earning a rising national reputation as the educational equivalent of a teaching hospital. Through four distinct academic programs, the School provides on campus an unmatched educational experience for more than 400 students each year. Another 1,000 individuals of all ages are served through five clinical programs. The School’s Rollins Center for Language and Literacy provides professional development for early childhood and early elementary teachers across Georgia and beyond. Through its powerful new online Cox Campus, it impacts 11,000 teachers in Georgia and beyond – and tens of thousands of their students — and is rapidly extending its reach. And it is giving new meaning to the Speech School’s longstanding core principle that no child should be turned away for lack of means.

Comer Yates, Executive Director, comments that the Atlanta Speech School “sought to collaborate with the Shepherd Consortium because we see it as a chance to drive forward the vision that every child in the United States is entitled to language and literacy as a birthright.”  Daniel Pedersen, Senior Advisor to the Speech School, observes, “The interns and the universities they represent, as well as the partnering organizations at the symposium, constitute important partners for the growing movement in our country to better understand and apply breakthroughs in brain science to breakthroughs which produce at once a society of greater justice, greater health and greater productivity.”

This will be the fifth annual symposium of SHECP on key issues for enhancing opportunities for vulnerable populations to flourish.  It will be the second symposium located at a site other than Lexington, Virginia, home of Washington and Lee and VMI, two member schools.  In 2012 the first SHECP symposium was held at the Clinton School of Public Service and the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Harlan Beckley, SHECP Executive Director, observes that the collaboration with the Atlanta Speech School allows the Consortium student interns and faculty “to be part of a working conference from which we will take lessons for our educational mission and for firsthand engagement by students and alumni to diminish poverty and expand opportunities through universal childhood literacy.”

Participation in the symposium is open to all registrants through links on and websites.  The Symposium schedule may found here.  A detailed agenda of the weekend events can be found here.


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