New York City Children’s Theater is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund our Literature at Play workshops in homeless shelters. Today, Associate Education Director, Sara Morgulis, reflects on her experience visiting a program.
One of the highlights of this year was working with children in homeless shelters as the City’s official theater partner in a new literacy program, the Afterschool Reading Club, initiated by the Mayor’s office and the Department of Education. All year long, we’ve been running weekly afterschool workshops for children in 18 shelters, leading theater activities to improve literacy and language skills and supporting them emotionally and socially.
Earlier this year, I was on a site visit to a shelter. I met our teaching artist outside of the classroom before the session began. As she opened the door and poked her head in the room, the kids all cheered because they were so excited that she was there. The site administrator told me that this is the kids’ standard greeting for her every Friday.
In our curriculum, the teaching artists lead the students in creating connections between the themes in the book and their own lives. Many of our teaching artists have noted tremendous growth in their students. One responded, “As my students’ confidence within the theatre exploration has increased, their ability to express how they are feeling and what’s happening in their lives has also increased.”
Each Friday this past school year, our teaching artists have created safe and accepting environments for the students to take risks and express themselves. One teaching artist reflected, “Obviously living in a shelter can be emotionally taxing and crippling. Giving the students opportunities to dream through theater is vital. I see them pretend to be teachers, authors, detectives, and rock stars. It is so important to talk about what promise the future has for them.”