Metropolitan Reading Council

Fall Reader 2016

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See Inside For:

  • How your MRC Board Members are Transforming the Community through Literacy
  • MRC Writing Contest 2016
  • MRC Fall Conference 2016
  • NSRA Conference 2017

The Reader

The Reader

Published since 1966

Metropolitan Reading Council #30400

Chartered in 1965

Metropolitan Reading Council

Executive Board 2016-2017

President Abby Burke

University of NE Omaha

Past President Amy Coacher

Learning HQ


Vice President

Treasurer Linda Placzek

Executive Secretary

Audrey McNamara

Information Manager

Renee McArthur

Bellevue Public Schools

Publications/Social Media

Elesha S. Harris

University of NE Omaha

MRC Website:

“Like” us on Facebook:

and follow us on Twitter: @OmahaMRC

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Dr. Abby Burke-UNO

In an education climate, where standardization and one size fits all approaches to policies and practices appear to be the norm, teachers are still challenging these norm in favor of innovative techniques that are best for students. In my current position teaching at UNO I am fortunate to rub shoulders with some of these teachers and hear about their innovation(s?) on a regular basis- teachers all over the Metropolitan area that are committed to advocating and implementing highly effective literacy practices. As I share the amazing work of teachers across the metropolitan Omaha area I have come to realize that others could grow and learn by hearing about the innovative work that is being done. This is why MRC has chosen to use our fall conference as a platform for sharing, celebrating, strategizing and advocating for the amazing work that is being accomplished in literacy educations. We have chosen to title this conference the MRC Innovative Unconference: Celebrating Innovations in Literacy Education.

The MRC Innovative Unconference is an attendee-driven conference where session content is determined by participants. This event is meant be as interactive as possible with everyone learning and participating with one another. Participants bring to the event a desire to share literacy innovations and learn from one another in an open environment. Sessions are meant to be discussion-based and participant-driven. We ask that participants come prepared to either share an innovation and/or learning about innovations in literacy education. If you decide to share one of your innovations feel free to bring in artifacts that represent the work. (Visuals are powerful learning tools!)

Examples, included but are not limited to the following…

Do you participate in a Mystery Skype with Authors?

Have you written a grant?

Have you implemented a service learning project in your classroom?

Do you use alternative seating in your classroom?

Are you using social media as a learning tool in your classroom?

How are you advocating for literacy education in your classroom or school?

Registrations for this event can be found at:

We look forward to seeing you!

When: Saturday, October 15, 2016

Where: UNO's Roskens Hall

Time: 8:00am-12:00pm

Registration for the conference is only $10 for current MRC members.

Non-membership registration fee is $25

If you know someone that is interested in joining MRC more information can be found at

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How Can Your School Help Metropolitan Reading Council?

Parents and community members are often searching for new ways to support student learning. Encourage your school PTA/PTO to sponsor MRC memberships and/or conference registrations. In doing so your PTA is communicating to teachers that they value the additional time, effort and money that educators put into their professional growth. If your PTA/PTO decides to team up with your teachers, please let MRC membership chair Lynn Thurber ( know so that she can send them a huge "thank you.”

Collaboration Pays Dividends!

Linda Placzek--MRC Treasurer

What does it take to engage high risk teen parents in literacy experiences for their babies and toddlers?

THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE: Give high risk teenage parents the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities which encourage developing literacy skill development with their babies and support them with instruction and materials and see what happens.

How did it happen?

A dedicated group of former educators and community members came together to design a literacy opportunity for high risk teenage moms. The project needs included the appropriate literacy training materials, an attractive, colorful and useful bag for materials which the moms could carry with them, and additional books for the moms to continue practicing these skills. Of course, these items required dollars and an agency to collaborate with.

Who were these former educators and community members bold enough to attempt this project?

Carolyn Law, former Westside Schools educator and Linda Placzek, former OPS educator and MRC Past President had the vision. They approached a community group, (of which both are members) the Omaha Golden K Kiwanis Club, which is dedicated to children, for support and funding. After sharing the idea, the two were given the go-ahead to apply for a grant from the Nebraska-Iowa District Kiwanis Foundation. After the grant was written and submitted, word came that the Foundation grant request was funded, but only partially. At that point the Club Officers and Board offered a contribution from the Club treasury and then members were asked to make individual contributions to address the shortfall. The Kiwanians came through! Within a few weeks, the necessary funding was in place.

The other need, a community agency to partner with, was filled by the Women’s Assure Center of Omaha, which serves at-risk teenage mothers. The agency was delighted to have this opportunity for their clients. The literacy training would become part of their education classes for these young clients and provided by their own staff. Carolyn Law provided training for the Assure staff.

With these needs filled, materials were ordered for training, additional books purchased, bags ordered for the moms, and in September, 2015, the program began.

Was it difficult to engage these young moms in literacy classes?

The answer is a happily resounding NO! The young moms have loved the opportunity to enhance their babies’ life experience with literacy activities. They have learned to read to their babies, sing nursery rhymes and have loved starting book collections for their little ones. Not only do the moms receive additional books as the classes continue, but they earn points by attending other Center classes to purchase additional books at the Assure Baby Store.

So what have we learned through this collaboration?

First, and more importantly, all parents understand that early literacy experiences are critical for their babies’ success.

Second, giving teenage or at-risk parents the instruction and most importantly, the tools, for early literacy experiences for their babies is a recipe for success.

Third, the need for this type of training has a place in our community.

Fourth, the collaboration of educators, community members, agencies and parents can make a difference in bringing literacy to infants and young children.

Fifth, community groups and members are willing to support this type of effort with time, talent and treasure.

So, stop for a moment to look around for possibilities to serve the needs of high risk children in your community and collaborate with others to make something special happen, too!

Addendum: We included in the materials for the parents, a copy of “Read to Me”, a brochure created by the Nebraska State Reading Association as well as a copy of the “Early Childhood Calendar”, which was created in collaboration of the Nebraska Department of Education, the Nebraska State Reading Association, Read ALoud Nebraska, the Lincoln’s Children’s Museum and the University of Nebraska Extension Services. Collaboration Pays!

My Life as a Librarian

Wilma Kuhlman, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor

It was almost exactly a year ago that I began my volunteer work as librarian at Girls, Inc. Omaha, and I can say that I keep learning and loving the role of working with young people and reading. I continue to find my biblioholic nature useful as I rearrange and re-shelve books after a group of girls have been in the library. Some of those books end up in the most interesting places. Sometimes I get to enjoy a real scavenger hunt!

Since the library has become more fully included in the schedules at Girls, Inc. I’ve learned some things that do and don’t work in the small library. When I wrote for the Winter MRC newsletter of this year, I’d just introduced the space to the girls and staff. Now I get to teach about books and authors and just share fun stories during the first 20 minutes of the girls’ time in the library. I’m usually able to work with girls twice a week – the staff determines what age group I meet on what days, since girls from kindergarten through 12th grade attend the center. I introduce an author or topic or something similar and read aloud (one of my favorite things to do) and lead a short discussion. Then the girls get to find books to peruse while lounging on large bean bag chairs. The participating numbers at Girls, Inc. have grown this fall, so I’ve had to develop staggered times for them to search for books and move to the bean bag half of the room. Chaos is not fun for anyone.

I’ve learned that more labels are better, so series are labeled as well as alphabetical author sections and informational books that tell about mammals or birds, etc. And I’ve also learned that favorite books fly off the shelves – no real surprise – and sometimes don’t make it back to the library. Although I encourage everyone to bring their check-outs back, we’re not in the business of hunting anyone down or penalizing them. We/I hope those books are read and shared and might even begin a small library in a home.

Consequently, we welcome book donations. I find that the high school girls have very little time to even visit the library, let alone take a long book home to read, so we don’t need a lot of YA books unless they’re famous dystopian series. Teens have lots of homework and assigned readings, and many have other responsibilities to take their time. Of course, there are quite a few who just plain hate to read. (Hmm, do we teachers contribute to that with our assignments, or how can we change that?) So if you or someone you know has books, especially the picture kind, get them to me, and I’ll add them to our shelves. If we already have multiple copies of a book, I’ll give the books to families that want them. I usually have a few book giveaways in the hub, and those books always disappear. Parents come there to see what’s available when picking up their daughters, and they can see what they’d like to have at home.

I did have one extra awesome opportunity this early summer. Since Malala was coming to speak at a luncheon fund raiser, I initiated some readers’ groups for My Name is Malala. The teen readers were volunteers, and we had some great discussions. Those who read the book got to go hear Malala speak, and I got an even bigger privilege, as you can see from the picture included!

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Even though I’m retired from the teaching profession at this point, literacy is still a hugely important part of my life. I’ve been on the MRC board about as long as I’ve been at UNO, which was 20 years. I love my time with the people, the library, and especially the girls at Girls, Inc. If you’re interested, contact me, and I’ll be happy to show you around Girls, Inc. And check around, look around. Got extra books? I can find a home for them. I can also recommend titles if you ask.

The Metropolitan Reading Council WRITING CONTEST 2016-2017

K-3RD Grade

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4TH-6TH Grade

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All students, grades K-12, in any public, private or parochial school in the following counties are eligible:

Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington.


1. Only single author manuscripts will be judged. Your story may have no more than 2500 words.

2. Send a legible copy of each entering student’s manuscript. (Keep originals; entries will not be returned). Attach ONE completed entry form to each manuscript. (Entries without an entry form will not be judged). The Entry Form is located on the back of this announcement. (Please duplicate as many forms needed).

3. Teachers are asked to submit only their “best” manuscripts for judging (Maximum 5 per class).

However, teachers may send a self-addressed, stamped 9x12 envelope with a request for blank

participation certificates to give to all students whose manuscripts were not submitted for judging.

4. Deadline: December 15, 2016

Winners will be recognized at a community gathering in March 2017.


K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

FIRST PLACE: Medal & Certificate each grade

SECOND PLACE: Medal & Certificate each grade

THIRD PLACE: Medal & Certificate each grade

7, 8










K-12th Grades

GRADE LEVEL: ______________________(If multi-age classroom, choose one grade level).

STUDENT (First & Last Name): __________________________________________

PARENT(s)/GUARDIAN: ______________________________________________

FAMILY ADDRESS/ZIP: _______________________________________________

SCHOOL NAME: _______________________________________________________

PRINCIPAL NAME: ____________________________________________________

TEACHER NAME: _____________________________________________________

SCHOOL ADDRESS/ZIP: _______________________________________________

SCHOOL PHONE NUMBER: ____________________________________________

Only ONE copy of this form should be attached to the copy of each student’s manuscript being submitted for judging. If the form is missing, the manuscript will not be judged. Please staple the form to a readable copy of the manuscript in the upper left corner. Be sure to include all requested information to insure proper identification.

REMINDER: Deadline is December 15, 2016. Entries postmarked or delivered after December 15, 2016 will not be accepted for judging.


Wilma Kuhlman

11767 Anderson Grove

Bellevue, NE 68123

Thank you for supporting literacy by participating in this year’s writing contest!

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Nebraska State Reading Association Conference

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