In celebration of International Literacy Day, observed Sept. 8, IU Northwest is pleased to announce the appointment of the executive director of the Children’s Literacy Initiative.
Heather Harder, Ph.D., will lead the initiative as it begins its first phases of existence as executive director. Formed from a partnership between the Shared Vision of IU Northwest and the Post Tribune, the initiative will raise the awareness of the value of early intervention through programs and resources to teachers, parents and children from birth to six years of age.
Housed at the IU Northwest Child Care Center, Harder’s first goals are to identify licensed day care centers in Gary and begin training programs and workshops in literacy development. An emphasis will also be placed on conducting research that measures results and progress of these programs. Eventually the training will move from the Gary area to centers throughout Northwest Indiana.
Harder sees the initiative as an opportunity to teach children not only how to read, but how to "maximize the book experience" by turning reading into a joyful, playful interaction between parent and child or teacher and child.
Using a sports model Harder envisions fun activities that engage children like games can. However, she still encourages the teaching of necessary structured skill development techniques. She likened this type of reading to a basketball practice. "A child will put themselves through countless drills just dribbling the ball before they actually play the game because they love the game that much," she said.
Greatly involved in the curriculum is the IU Northwest School of Education. Dean Stanley Wigle said he is pleased to have Harder on board. "She brings with her a wealth of more than 20 years experience in childcare and we look forward to seeing the positive impact she’ll have on getting this program off the ground," Wigle said.
Harder received her Ph.D. in reading from Indiana State University. She has owned and operated day care centers in northwest Indiana for more than 20 years. She recently held the position of coordinator for education programs at the University of Chicago. Harder is also the president-elect of the Hammond Area Reading Council.
International Literacy Day focuses attention on worldwide literacy issues and needs. Throughout the world individuals and organizations renew their efforts to promote literacy and demonstrate their commitment to providing education for all. According to the International Reading Association, it is estimated that 860 million of the world’s adults do not know how to read or write and more than 100 million children lack access to education.
For more information on The Children’s Literacy Initiative or International Literacy Day, please call (219) 980-6586.