Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Nicarico Fund Fosters Love of Reading in Naperville

Nicarico Fund fosters love of reading
Article from:The Sun - Naperville (IL) Article date:February 26, 2003Author:Melissa Franic More results for:jeanine nicarico Literacy

English as a second language teacher Fay Peterson was one of three instructors from Mill Street Elementary School awarded a grant this year from the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Fund for Literacy. Every year, hundreds of children from Naperville School District 203, Indian Prairie District 204 and local private schools benefit from the foundation's grants.

It wasn't until late in her short life that Jeanine Nicarico found a love for reading. Through the passion of teachers at Elmwood Elementary School, Nicarico became an avid reader, Barb Jansz said. "She loved to read about horses and things like that," Jansz said. "She had found teachers Irene Rahder and Terry Elkin Pocius, who really fostered her love of reading."
Jansz is the chairman of the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Fund for Literacy, which was established in 1995 to honor the memory of Nicarico, an Elmwood Elementary School fifth-grader who was slain in 1983.

The idea for the literacy fund began with a group of River Woods Elementary teachers who were friends with the Nicarico family, Jansz said. Chris Nicarico Roy, Jeanine's sister, also teaches at River Woods.

"It was during a time when there were a lot of trials and nothing really positive happening," Jansz said. "We did this to celebrate Jeanine's life and to celebrate her memory."

Using donated funds, the Nicarico Fund steering committee gives grants once a year to educators who submit proposals for projects that will enhance reading, writing and speaking. The fund works in conjunction with the Naperville Education Foundation.

The steering committee includes Naperville educators, community representatives and members of Nicarico's family, Jansz said.

This year, 11 out of 25 grant proposals were awarded to schools throughout Naperville. Of those, two grants were given to teachers at Mill Street Elementary School.

When Fay Peterson got the phone call at home that the grant she applied for was awarded, she said she was "totally excited."

"Everybody knows about (the Nicarico Fund). It's well-respected," Peterson said. "It's such an honor to receive this."

An English as a second language instructor at Mill Street, Peterson will use the $353 in funds she was awarded to create audiocassette reading packs for children to take home.

Reading specialist Deb Coulter and instructional coordinator Tanya Hughes also were awarded a grant at Mill Street for a similar program. Their $1,510 will fund books and cassettes for children who are reading below grade level.

"Research has shown the more fluent reading children hear, the more learning occurs," Coulter said. "(Recorded) books ... enable families to sit down, and children are finally reading books they wouldn't be able to otherwise."

Peterson already had established a similar program for her first-, second- and third-grade ESL students. The grant money will allow her to expand the program to kindergarten students, she said.

This program will familiarize the younger children with the rhythm of the English language, Peterson said.

Coulter's program fills a need for older students who are reading a little behind their grade level. She tries to keep them from falling through the cracks, she said.

"A lot of times during independent reading, students will carry around a book they would like to read, but they can't because it's at a higher level," Coulter said. "The whole goal is not just to listen to the tape, but to hear the words and read along."

Coulter used to run her program by checking out audiotapes from the library, she said. The grant, which she applied for with the help of Hughes, will allow her to expand the program.

This is the first time both Peterson and Coulter have written grant proposals, Hughes said. A lot of times, teachers are afraid to write for grants because they find the process intimidating. However, Hughes said the Nicarico Fund for Literacy is a "teacher-friendly" grant process and she encourages more teachers to apply for grants.

"These grants support teachers and students in so many ways," Hughes said. "It's wonderful to know they're out there."

Since its inception, the Literacy Fund has awarded 59 grants totaling more than $56,000 to schools in Naperville, including parochial schools. The goal of the committee is to create an endowment fund that will allow Naperville children to benefit from literacy grants for a long time to come.

Teachers also give back to the fund, Jansz said, by finding new ways to raise money. As a way to show her appreciation for the Nicarico Fund, Mary Bazan, of Silver Mortgage, and Mary Kelly, a teacher from Hill Middle School, started a Run for Reading last year at the school to raise money. This year's run takes place May 18.

Upcoming fund-raisers also include an annual cookbook sale and sale at Great Harvest Bread. Members of the steering committee also are working with artist Laurie Allen to produce artwork to sell.