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Buffalo's waterfront history literacy lesson: History of Buffalo Graphic Novel

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Some area school students participated in a summer-time literacy project.  In this Focus on Education report WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says students created the History of Buffalo Graphic Novel to promote reading while learning about the city's waterfront history. 

"It was really, really fun and a cool experience," said 1o-year-old Liam Post.  Post is getting ready to begin 5th grade at the Lindbergh Elementary School in Kenmore.  But over the last couple of week's Post had some history lessons and now his drawings appear in a soft-cover book of children artwork.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
10-year-old Liam Post participating in the program.

Post joined Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara and students gathered at Canalside Monday were they proudly displayed their work.  Post learned Buffalo has a Cheerios plant on the waterfront.

"Very, very surprised. I didn't even know we had anything to do with Cheerios," said Post.

Post tells WBFO News his favorite part of participating in the summer program was when they began to color in their sketches and received a certificate from New York State Senator Tim Kennedy. He issued certificates of congratulations to the students who completed the project. 

Jennifer Westerholt is director of marketing and development at Literacy New York Buffalo Niagara.  Students began this project by touring historic waterfront and canal sites to read and learn.

"And so many of the kids that came down -- had never been down here. This was their first exposure to our waterfront," said Westerholt. 

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Jackie Albarella & Jennifer Westerholt.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Student artwork inside the book.

Jackie Albarella served as the art teacher during the program.

"If we want to look at it from an educational standpoint, we are doing all the Common Core stuff in a really fun way," said Albarella. 

While students toured the historic waterfront sites and monuments, Albarella would ask them to begin sketching.

"We you put a sketch pad in a kids hand -- you know they are natural sketchers, they are natural drawers, and so they always come up with great things that blow me away," said Albarella. 

Students learned about Buffalo's historic role in the building of the Erie Canal and Buffalo Harbor -- a time in history that dates back to the late 1790's.

"And then they would start reading the monuments and they would say 'what does this mean' and what was Korea," said Albarella. "Really the Graphic Novel serves as a jumping off point for them to explore some new things they had never seen about the history of Buffalo and the history of our country."

This teaching process of touring and sketching had the children thinking after they left the program for the day. "They would go home and ask their parents or read something," said Albarella.      

The graphic novel was the finale project of  this July and August program.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
The History of Buffalo Graphic Novel on display Monday at Canalside.

"And if you just page through it, you can see -- they picked up -- the grain elevators and things like that -- they read about it -- they learned about it," said Westerholt.

Westerholt Literacy New York is working to catch children at an early age. Buffalo still has a high illiteracy rate, with one in three adults who are illiterate, a problem that gets past down to the next generation.

"Parents who are illiterate are going to have kids who are illiterate," said Westerholt.  "It's like 60 or 70-percent who homes with illiterate parents don't have any books at home." 

Literacy New York has created a youth literacy program for children of adults who trying to learn to read.  learning to read.  Illiteracy is a cycle they are trying to beat.

Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley
Post points to his artwork on Buffalo's shipping past.
"That if you read someone a book they are only inspired for one day, but if you teach someone to read, they can read for their whole, entire life," said Post.