By Sarah Pinkerton | Staff Writer
Baylor’s efforts in the Waco community continue during this time of school shutdown. After Waco ISD created the #WacoISDreads challenge last month, the Baylor Department of External Affairs created the Keep Reading Keep Learning campaign to support these reading efforts in Waco ISD.
During phase one of their at-home learning transition, Waco ISD students were able to pick up at-home learning kits. The school district then asked that families post a daily photo of themselves and their kids reading with the hashtag #WacoISDreads to encourage creative posts.
Over 20 videos and posts of at home reading have been made so far on Facebook from schools such as Alta Vista Elementary, Kendrick Elementary, Crestview Elementary, Cesar Chavez Middle School, University High School and more.
Additional Instagram posts by Waco High School and around 40 tweets from various Waco community members feature photos of themselves or their kids reading at home.
Holly Burchett, director of community relations in the Baylor External Affairs office said once the members of the Solid Gold Neighbor program at Baylor heard about the efforts of Waco ISD, the External Affairs office developed the Keep Reading Keep Learning campaign to provide further content and support.
The Solid Gold Neighbor program is Baylor’s community engagement initiative. It aims to provide resources to support the goals of the Waco community in areas such as business growth, financial security, education, food insecurity and health.
“As we include the hashtag #WacoISDreads it provides content to their program with a hope that students in Waco ISD know how much our community is rooting for them from homes all across the city,” Burchett said.
Phase one included a virtual reading of a Baylor version of “We’re Going on a Bear Hike” and was posted to the Solid Gold Neighbor Facebook page. It was read by CJ Foster, a senior bear trainer at Baylor, as clips of Cameron Park, McLane Stadium and the Bear Habitat were shown.
A Spanish version of this reading was released as well.
Joshua Wucher, executive director of communications for Waco ISD, said when Baylor found out about the campaign within Waco ISD there was a mutual interest to find a way to support each other in this campaign.
“They knew that we were going to be doing this campaign and asked, how could they help and out of that came, well what are some of our Baylor athletes and some of our familiar faces from Baylor in the community,” Wucher said.
Through the Keep Reading Keep Learning Campaign, many prominent Waco community members have become involved with the efforts.
A video of Kim Mulkey reading “A Porcupine Named Fluffy” was then uploaded and received over 180 shares on Facebook.
Pastor Marlon Jones of St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal Church in Waco, Hector Sabido of Waco City Council and Pete Sousa of KWTX were featured on Facebook as well.
“Our office works to create partnerships within our community regularly but we believe it is critical during these times so that we understand how Baylor can be most helpful during COVID-19,” Burchett said. “People need people during quarantine and our office feels honored to be able to maintain and continue to build these relationships during such a time as this.”
Wucher said a large portion of the city is impacted by the school district and in a time of a far-reaching pandemic, he feels it is important to have a larger effort to promote positive news.
“I think it’s great that we can have lots of community partners, including Baylor that have helped in a variety of ways,” Wucher said. “Beyond just this literacy project, with helping us with our feeding sites and distributing materials. It’s been comforting to know that there are community partners that we can lean on for support.”
To get involved, record a video of yourself or someone else reading a children’s book and email it to External_Affairs@Baylor.edu for a chance to be featured or post to social media with the hashtag #WacoISDreads.