The primary difference was the shifting from the neighborhood concept toward a stronger orientation on pedagogical development. Nonetheless, my colleague Steve Benders’s critical work in the formation and expansion of LVGH’s Family/Community Literacy programs in the early 1990’s, with a multitude of sites located throughout Hartford represented a reconstruction of the neighborhood concept initially articulated in the 1080 grant. Personalities and events have brought LVGH into some unanticipated twists and turns from the original vision 1986, but what did emerge throughout the 1990s and into the first few years of the 21st century was an underlying coherent urban vision, consisting of a main center and neighborhood sites located throughout Hartford.
It was this underlying drive shaped by a mix of ideologies and visions empowered by the “literacy myth” that provided the energy for the creation of the reading center “pilot” model. The program in turn acted as a catalyst in the transformation of LVGH from a fledging volunteer managed program supported by minimal part time paid staff to a fully staffed urban oriented program. Through this transformation, the affiliate became engaged in cutting edge work in small group tutoring, the creation of learner-generated texts, and the proliferation of neighborhood sites supported in part by paid neighborhood tutors. Thus, in the ten-year transition from 1986-1996, the expansion of LVGH into a well run urban affiliate fulfilled the mid-1980s vision of the LVA-CT leadership.
Programming at the Bob Steele Reading Center & Further Developments at LVGH
During the Moylan phase (1986-1989) the LVA-CT staff viewed the Reading Center as a “pilot” project that may or may not have proven viable within the essentially decentralized LVA organizational structure and culture. By 1989, the Center had experienced modest growth in numbers of students served with about 30 participating on a regular basis, but that was not the only reflection of its viability. A more intangible factor emerged of an esprit de corps among students and tutors where sense of community began to develop even in the borrowed space and even in an essentially one-to-one tutoring program. A centralized meeting place, the accessibility of materials, and the presence of a staff person seemed sufficient to establish an inviting learning climate not usually available in the more commonly decentralized LVA model of program delivery. The Center, as program originators at LVA-CT envisioned, began to bear fruit.
Opportunity to recruit several workshop leaders and tutor support personnel among the Center’s volunteers for the entire LVGH operation represented major, unanticipated outcomes of the program. This not only strengthened the organizational capacity of the affiliate to provide services and better support students and tutors. It also bolstered the credibility of the Reading Center with LVGH and LVA-CT as a resource for organizational development. This, in turn, helped to place the Center’s development by 1989 as a high priority within these agencies as key stakeholders began to take notice that beyond providing a supportive environment for students and tutors, the Center held considerable possibilities for the development of the affiliate at large.
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