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Center to Help Children, Families Dedicated

October 3, 2019

Dr. Joan Brewer, interim dean of The Teachers College at Emporia State University, is surrounded by Masons of the Grand Lodge of Kansas as she speaks during the dedication and consecration ceremony of the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center.

About 100 people attended an event recently for an organization that has the singular purpose of helping children learn to read and working with the communities the children live in to encourage this basic life skill.

The dedication and consecration of the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center took place on Saturday, Sept. 21, at the center, located within Visser Hall at Emporia State University.

Though the center may have just been dedicated, the Kansas Masonic Literacy Center has been active over recent years in its goals of helping families, schools, teachers, professionals in literacy development, and — most important — children.

“The first few years of life are the most critical for brain and language growth and development,” said Dr. Dennis Kear, KMLC executive director. “One of metrics the original proposal established for the center’s success was that its programs would impact 50,000 in 10 years. We are well on our way, with over 29,000 young people, students and adults who have participated in our events and programs as we approach the Year Three milestone.”

In March 2016, when the Masons of Kansas provided the $4 million gift to create the statewide literacy center, the goal was to impact all Kansans and allow the nearly 20,000 members of the Masons in the state to help facilitate literacy programming in local communities. The gift was the largest gift in the history of Emporia State.

While the new center was being constructed, Kear was working with numerous other organizations to fulfill the KMLC’s purpose.

At the dedication event, K-12 students, education majors at Emporia State, parents, Masons and reading volunteers impacted by KMLC’s programs and services spoke about how the KMLC had helped them.

Past and current efforts include:

  • Each summer since 2017, KMLC has requested the Kansas Governor proclaim the first week in September as Kansas Literacy Week. Posters were sent electronically to every school and library in Kansas. In 2019, a social media contest was added to raise awareness for the event. Participants from across the state added photos to the Facebook post each day. A winner was randomly chosen for each day to win a $100 library. There were over 240 entries and 2,262 engagements. Participants included 22 elementary schools, 13 libraries, seven daycares, two home schools and many individual families.
  • KMLC sponsored One School One Book, a national program by the Read to Them organization. Partnering with Village Elementary in Emporia in spring 2018, KMLC purchased more than 400 copies of a book for every student and staff member. K-6 students attended a kickoff event on ESU’s campus and four ESU student-athletes read the first chapter of the book aloud to the participants. To promote family reading, the students and their families were asked to read the rest of the book at home over the next six weeks. A drawing for prizes was held at the conclusion of the project for those students who completed reading the book.
  • From August 2019 through August 2020, KMLC is offering three rotations of all seven modules of “The Growing Brain” This professional learning is approved by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment as 21 clock hours (3 clock hours per module) of credit toward child care re-licensure. The first rotation of modules, which began Aug. 24, 2019, had 54 daycare providers and preschool teachers enrolled.
  • KMLC coordinated the Kansas Book Festival Youth Writing Contest, held in the spring. This year’s theme was “To the Stars,” and contestants were asked to describe an event from the state’s rich past and explain its impact. The writing contest was open to Kansas students in Grades 3-12. Winners were selected in each of the four Congressional Districts at each level (Grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12) and were recognized at the Kansas Statehouse on Sept. 14. All winning essays will be compiled into a book and each winner will receive a copy. This was the first year the contest was coordinated by KMLC.

“Chief among KMLC’s projects is its work with Title 1 Schools,” said Tasia Markowitz, assistant director of the KMLC.  “KMLC Target Schools are Title 1 Schools having high rates of students living in poverty, a high incidence of English Language Learners and low scores on the state English Language Arts standards.”

A few of the typical interventions used at these schools include:

  • support for after-school tutoring in literacy skills
  • professional development in literacy strategies
  • professional development in working with English Language Learners
  • purchase of guided reading materials
  • purchase of books for classroom libraries
  • support for summer school

KMLC Target Schools include:

  • Quindaro Elementary, Kansas City, Kansas (USD 500)
  • Ridgeview Elementary, Olathe (USD 233)
  • Logan Avenue Elementary, Emporia (USD 253)
  • Community Elementary, Coffeyville (USD 445)
  • Gordon Parks Academy, Wichita (USD 259)
  • IXL Elementary, Arkansas City (USD 470)
  • Highland Park Central Elementary, Topeka (USD 501)
  • Schilling Elementary, Salina (USD 305)
  • Park Elementary, Great Bend (USD 428)
  • Abe Hubert Elementary, Garden City (USD 457)
  • Oberlin Elementary, Oberlin (USD 294)
  • Humboldt Elementary, Humboldt (USD 258)
  • Central Elementary, Dodge City (USD 443)

More information about KMLC can be found at



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