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Girl Scout Gold Award Project: Mikayla TerLouw, Grand Junction, “Fall Into Reading”


What did you do for your Gold Award project?

I worked to encourage family literacy and increase the amount of parents who participate in reading-related activities with their children. I organized an event at Orchard Avenue Elementary School on October 2nd, a carnival-style “Fall Into Reading Dinner & Game Night.” There were 10 stations, each run by a volunteer where the students and their parents could play games and receive reading-related prizes, such as books and bookmarks. Parents could also participate in a Literacy Bingo game, where they could visit each of the stations and read a poster with different ways to encourage kids to read. Once they filled out the bingo board with reasons to participate in family literacy, they were entered into a drawing to win a reading promotion gift-basket, with books, notepads, and a beanbag.

The second part of my Gold Award was the Reading Challenge, which was a six-week long competition at Orchard Avenue. Students received reading logs to fill out when they read for 20 minutes, or read with their family. I collected the logs every week and displayed them on a bookshelf display with a shelf for each class in the lobby, so that the kids could track their progress. The class with the most minutes read at the end received a pizza party, and the top four individual winners received gift baskets with gift cards and other miscellaneous prizes. Also, there was a drawing every week where one kid from each class who had read that week could choose a small prize.

Why did you pursue this Gold Award project?

I love to read and I wanted other children to be encouraged to read more with their families, so that they may have the same love of reading as they grow older.

How did your Gold Award project make a difference?

I addressed the growing problem in our community with the decreasing amount of reading by students. I wanted to encourage more students to read, and also to involve their parents.

What skills did you gain through earning your Gold Award?

I developed strong communication skills during this project. I have never considered myself a strong communicator, but I not only learned better ways to communicate, but also realized the methods of communication that are easiest for me. I talked to many people during this project, whether it be teachers, volunteers, or businesses. The ability to communicate with different types of people is crucial for everyday life, and this project allowed me to develop these skills. When I had difficulty working with people, or we mis-communicated, I had to think critically to quickly overcome these problems. Talking to others has always been difficult for me, but I challenged myself to interact with many people in order to make the project a success. I also learned the importance of time management and careful planning. With the “Fall Into Reading Dinner & Game Night,” I sometimes felt rushed, so I learned to budget my time better for the reading challenge. I also had detailed plans and back up plans to consider the many problems that could happen. This critical thinking ensured that even during the challenges and setbacks, the project could run smoothly.

How did you make your project sustainable?

The “Fall Into Reading Dinner & Game Night” will be an annual event organized by the Orchard Avenue PTA, to remind kids and parents annually to keep participating in family literacy. I hope the students at Orchard Avenue were inspired by the Reading Challenge to read more with their families, and that they will continue to do so even though the challenge is over. The teachers also discussed having a Reading Challenge again next year.

What was your connection to the national or global community?

Because this is a growing issue in my community, it is also a national and global issue as well. As I researched the importance of family literacy, I found many statistics from across the country highlighting the need to read as a family. Not only does family literacy raise reading test scores (by up to 74 points, with an average increase of 10 points), but it helps with other aspects of school, such as math. Reading also drastically increases a child’s vocabulary. Since more time is spent at home than at school, parents have a greater influence on their children’s reading capabilities than teachers. This influence can be best exercised by reading regularly with their children, although many parents do not know this. I was able to inform many families about the importance of reading. As the students and parents at Orchard Avenue learned the importance of family literacy, I would hope that they would tell other people they know, like friends and family, so that more people may become aware of its importance and how they can encourage family literacy.

What will you most remember about your Gold Award project?

I will remember the time and effort I put in to making this project a success. I also built many strong relationships with the teachers at Orchard Avenue, as well as the volunteers. I will remember the excitement of the kids who won, but also their enthusiasm about reading when I visited their classrooms every week and talked to a few students about their reading.

How will earning your Gold Award help you in your future?

I have learned many important life skills, such as communication, collaboration, time management, etc. These are all skills important to adult life and work. Learning these skills now will allow me to be more successful later on in my life.

Why do you feel the Gold Award is an important part of your Girl Scout experience?

I enjoy helping my community, and the Gold Award gave me an opportunity to perform an elaborate project to address an important community issue. I also connected with many more Girl Scouts, primarily while I was seeking out more volunteers.

***IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog represents only a small fraction of the hard work, dedication and requirements that go into earning a Girl Scout Gold Award. It is simply a brief summary, which is meant to inspire Girl Scouts to Go Gold in the future. For more information on earning your Gold Award, please email highestawards@gscolorado.org

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