With help from the United Way, St. Luke’s Community House created a Read to Succeed Program for their pre-kindergarten students. In addition to supplying a literacy coach and curriculum, United Way also provides funding for school materials, books and supplies. Rhyme Awareness is one of the programs incorporated into Read to Succeed. Continuing to help build this program, illustration students from Nossi College of Art contributed time and talents to paint nursery rhyme murals on the plain, beige walls just outside the pre-kindergarten classrooms.
Every fall and spring, literacy coaches test students to see if they are reaching specific academic benchmarks. This progress is designed to help a student succeed once they enter kindergarten. Rhyme Awareness recalls a student’s memory of a specific nursery rhyme and also reveals if parents are involved in reading to their children at home. Parents can become more engaged by attending workshops that illustrate how to appropriately read to their kids.
Because of the importance of literacy, seven students from Nossi College of Art donated their Saturday morning to paint four brightly colored murals including Humpty Dumpty, Hey Diddle Diddle, Three Men in a Tub and There was an Old Woman who Lived in a Shoe. Each nursery rhyme was strategically positioned so students can view the murals as they learn in their classrooms.
“This has been the focus, really wanting to expand on what we were doing for literacy already, and then bring it to life on the walls,” said Ryan LaSuer, Child Development Director at St. Luke’s. “[These murals] are a constant reminder of what we do and the potential growth we want to see in our children.”
Before Nossi students could start painting, multiple sketches were created, edited and approved. At 9 a.m., when students from St. Luke’s are turning on their Saturday morning cartoons, Arden Von Haeger, Illustration Coordinator at Nossi, started ELMO, a machine designed to project images onto the wall. Students with the help of Steve LaSuer, a graphic design instructor at Nossi and father to Ryan LaSuer, began tracing the outline with magic markers. Once traced, the paint brushes took over! Each nursery rhyme was specifically chosen because of its connection to the students and the literacy program.
“The reason we wanted these murals [on the walls] was so when students saw them they would immediately say ‘I know that,’” said Ryan. This connection will continue to help their learning process. “(At an early age) if you can instill that love for literacy, it really will just carry on throughout their lifetime.”
With paint cans, mixing bins and brushes sprawled across the floor, each student could incorporate their own imagination into the murals. From deciding on colors to use, paints to mix and extra details to add, Nossi students could easily draw inspiration from St. Luke’s classrooms. Filled with colorful messages, Oscar the pet fish, two birds and an unending supply of tactile objects, the bright classrooms are an alphabet soup for learning and imagination. Each mural, from start to finish, took about an hour to complete.
Landon Matney, an illustration student at Nossi, helped bring the musically inclined cat and his fiddle to life on the walls of St. Luke’s.
“In high school, I painted several murals. It was good to get back into it and do more with St. Luke’s,” Matney said. He graduated from Green County High School in Greensberg, Kentucky.
Every student lucky enough to enroll at St. Luke’s is considered an ‘at risk’ student. Ryan said one reason the literacy program and Rhyme Awareness is so important is because research shows, children who receive a good start academically will have potentially more success once they enter the school system.
The affiliation between Nossi College of Art and St. Luke’s was built on a father and son relationship, and the collaboration grew from there.
“I know Nossi does a lot of murals with schools and other organizations. I know they do a great job at that, and we wanted to be a part of that,” said Ryan.
View more images online here.