Heroes and Literacy
We've heard from many quarters that one of the things kids need most now is hope. We looked at our Giraffe Heroes Project files, bulging with stories of "Giraffe Heroes"— people from an array of ages, locations and backgrounds who are plunging into every imaginable problem and getting positive results. Their lives are models for positive action and enormous sources of hope.
We've put forty of these stories into Voices of Hope, a unique middle/high school program that builds reading skills while it encourages kids to be active citizens in their communities. We know from many years' experience in classrooms how well the inspiring and exciting stories of Giraffe Heroes grab kids' attention—even kids who don't like to read. Used as a supplementary reader, Voices of Hope is a welcome addition to standard reading texts, many of which are notoriously dull.
But Voices of Hope is much more than an anthology of stories and instruction in vocabulary, sentence structure and comprehension. Voices of Hope tells kids that individuals can impact their world for the better, and that they themselves can do that too. Then it shows them how, with easy-to-use service learning lesson plans and skills-building materials in the Voices of Hope Service Learning Guide.
Giraffe Heroes' stories inspire many kids to move from "Why bother?" to "How can I make a difference?" The Service Learning Guide can help teachers help kids create and carry out successful service projects on issues they care about. Guiding kids into courageous, caring service can change their attitudes—and their lives.
Feedback from Teachers
“Voices of Hope is the best literacy resource I’ve come across in the last five years. The stories stay with you—they are touchstones of courage and caring. …The extraordinary Service-Learning Guide is a gem in itself, as a guide to coaching service-learning projects. …[It’s] the best such handbook I’ve ever seen. —Ronald Gross, Chair, Columbia University Seminar on Innovation.
“Interest in reading greatly improved. Students were reading for a purpose after being introduced to (Giraffe-heroes).Voices of Hope even pulled in several who were otherwise “too cool” to participate… The stories also really gave kids something to think about (they had previously felt unable to make a difference). Students are beginning to learn that perseverance is required for real life—they want to keep their(service) projects going into 6th and 7th grades. They demonstrated caring and taking responsibility. As teachers we felt empowered by the stories that raised such awareness in our students.”—Carol McCaig and Cathy Malloy, Juanita Elementary School, Kirkland WA
“It’s a great unit. I was very impressed with my students’ responses to Voices of Hope stories. The students really enjoyed hearing about adult problems and solutions in these stories… They also showed increased vocabulary skills and a much higher comprehension level than I would have expected… In terms of attitudes, I noticed an increase of determination, persistence, courage and self-sacrifice.”—Sarah Lucas, teacher, Seattle Hill Elementary School, Everett WA
“Voices of Hope stories give students power and a realization they can make a difference; after reading them, students were inspired to take a more active part in what is going on in the world… Voices of Hope enriches the time we spend with students on taking personal responsibility and on solving problems; had double or triple the number of students running for Student Council this year than last... Voices of Hope has enriched student service programs, which now include a “Bully-Free program, fundraising for local charities and for tsunami relief and keeping the schoolyard clean from messes made by seagulls.”—Barbara Conti, teacher, St. Stephan School, San Francisco CA
“Our students found the Voices of Hope message inspiring and motivating. In reading and discussing the stories, students practiced their comprehension, critically analyzed issues, generated alternative solutions and evaluated differing positions… In showing students how real people have overcome the odds, the stories in Voices of Hope inspired our students and gave them hope for the future. And generating ideas about how they might, upon release, help solve problems in their communities, gave them confidence that they can make a difference, as well as providing them with a way they might give back to others.”—Eva Zeltzer, teacher, Robert E. Burton Adult School, San Quentin Prison, CA
“Voices of Hope provided our children with a new awareness of what a real hero is. Before reading the stories, the “heroes they identified were athletes, actors and parents. After reading the stories, they identified people in their community, with the heroic quality being helping others… In terms of reading comprehension, Voices of Hope helped students reinforce use of context and clues.”—Ava Goldstein, teacher, Raynham Middle School, Raynham MA
The Voices of Hope Service Learning Guide can be ordered separately or as a companion piece for the Voices of Hope anthology.
Voices of Hope