In the fall of 2017, the Tilles Foundation granted Ready Readers funding for over three years to design and construct 75 literacy and learning-rich spaces in 75 St. Louis Public School (SLPS) Pre-K classrooms. SLPS Foundation leveraged this gift with additional funding from PNC Bank and Maritz to lead a rich program that includes early childhood educators from across the District. This fall, SLPS celebrated the construction of 15 literacy-rich design spaces in 15 Pre-K classrooms in SLPS.
“Our students come to Pre-K with a wide spectrum of skills. With a quality classroom environment, we can not only tailor the work for each student, but we can give them a sense of control over their learning.” – SLPS Pre-K teacher
Ready Readers is an outcome-based early literacy program that takes place in all 130 Pre-K classrooms in the 44 St. Louis Public School Elementary Schools. These Pre-K classrooms are in historically large classrooms in grade school buildings that were not designed to teach preschool-age children. With lead support from the Tilles Foundation, along with generosity from PNC Bank and Maritz, Ready Readers teamed with the SLPS Foundation to create optimal, literacy-based, learning environments for their young children so that they can learn, explore, discover, work together and develop social and academic skills.
“It is a noisy world. In the classroom, we want to create an environment of calm, predictability, safety, routine, ownership and love. Spaces, lighting, wall color, rugs, and cushions play a vital part in creating that environment.” – SLPS Pre-K teacher
In August 2017, at the beginning of the school year, 15 teachers were chosen to participate in monthly SLPS “Creating Literacy Spaces Create Change” workshops, led by Dr. Robert Dillon, the Director of the Research Institute Bright Byes, a national education think tank dedicated to promoting innovation and best practices in all classrooms, and author of the book, The Space: A Guide for Educators. Dr. Dillon led the teachers through a study of the importance of space as a “third teacher” in the classroom and then worked with each teacher to design their own, optimal literacy spaces. In the spring of 2018, teachers ordered their materials, and during the summer of 2018, the materials were installed.
Due to the great success of the first year, funding from the Tilles Foundation and PNC Bank will enable this project to expand to 30 classrooms this year.