As a passion project, SHORT the Squirrel literacy initiative, was founded in February 2020 and non-profit status soon followed. SHORT’s mission is to increase literacy in our youngest citizens, and the programming strategy identifies gaps of time where children must wait while their adults conduct various tasks. These periods of “gap” time could be at the courthouse, a waiting room, running community errands to the bank, town hall, grocery store, laundry mat, or hair salon, as well as places related to outdoor activities such as fishing, farming, and hunting. The list where children spend their time waiting in the community is vast and full of literacy opportunities. Unfortunately, comprehensive data on how these gaps of time could be translated into literacy growth moments alludes us. We want to impact the children where little to no data exists.
The efforts of SHORT the Squirrel provided topic-based literacy kits in the various areas where children are waiting. Through the grant, SHORT the Squirrel would develop, print and distribute a new booklet titled ‘SHORT and the Waterways’. The booklet featured various waterways in the area, regional wildlife, and special facts related to water management. Additionally, the new booklet promoted conservation, geography and protecting Alabama waterways.
The new booklet became one piece of a prepackaged literacy kit supplemented with a sticker, crayons, and environmental one-pager. Literacy kits have been distributed to the various spaces where children are waiting related to waterways and outdoor activities centered around the water. Examples of these locations include marinas, bait shops, regional parks, state agencies, campgrounds, and the like.
As the project comes to a close, the SHORT the Squirrel team is scheduling conversations with the various partner organizations/locations in an effort to obtain valuable feedback. Based on the insight and input from the partners, the booklet may be edited or modified for the end user as part of the next phase of distribution to other areas of the state.