WordPlay Round-Up: Poets, Cyclists and Summer Scholars

Spring has started blossoming at WordPlay Cincy, the Northside non-profit where children connect with caring volunteers who work in partnership with parents and teachers to realize success in and beyond their classrooms. As our school-year projects reach new heights, we’re already planning for the return of successful programs from last year.

Louder Than a Bomb final poetry slam, April 18

Since the start of the school year, WordPlay volunteers have been working alongside talented teens from Aiken High School and beyond as they prepare to compete in Cincinnati’s first-ever Louder Than a Bomb poetry slam.

Louder Than A Bomb started as a program of the non-profit Young Chicago Authors and its success sparked its expansion to cities around the country. It is now the largest youth poetry festival in the world.

“We’re so proud of the students and volunteers who have worked so hard all school year creating pieces for the finals,” says WordPlay Executive Director Libby Hunter. “We hope our Northside neighbors will join us in cheering for all of the students at the finals April 18.”

As part of the year-long project, students from Aiken have worked alongside professional poets and writers and shared their work with peers from across the city. Connecting students who might otherwise never cross paths has been a major benefit of the poetry slam process. “Our WordPlay teams span far and wide across the city, giving teens the opportunity to mix with students from a variety of different schools,” Hunter says. “All of the young people involved learn so much about each other, and themselves, though this powerful creative process. Thanks to Louder Than a Bomb, students from schools like Aiken and Seven Hills have come to know each other, find commonalities, share their vulnerabilities and understand the value of shared experiences between them. ”

Finals will be at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s Harriet Tubman Theatre, Saturday, April 18, at 6 pm. Tickets are free, but must be reserved at www.louderthanabombcincy.com.

Get Ready to Ride for Reading, May 8

Every year, WordPlay Cincy partners with bookworms and bicycle enthusiasts to beef up home libraries of hundreds of local elementary school students. Launched in partnership with Northside’s own Spun Bicycles and MoBo in addition to Queen City Bike and the UC Bike Kitchen, the annual spring Ride for Reading grows in size and impact each year. Early sponsors include Coffee Emporium, the Cincinnati Off-Road Alliance, and "Ohio's Bike Lawyer," Steve Magas.

This year, WordPlay will help lead 100 cyclists to deliver 3,000 books to Chase Elementary. The effort is monumental and worth every bike messenger bag full of Dr. Seuss and Sandra Boynton. After delivering books, riders are invited to be a part of reading circles with young readers at the school.

The Friday morning event starts at 10:30 am, when riders gather at Coffee Emporium’s warehouse on 11th Street in OTR. Once all riders fill their bike bags and backpacks with books, they make their way to Chase Elementary, where students are anxious to see them and collect books to add to their home collection of reading materials. Reading circles will end by 2 pm. All volunteers receive a free t-shirt and some serious satisfaction for not only getting great exercise and building community, but also for putting the power of words in the hands of appreciative young people. Interested? Contact WordPlay at 513-541-0930, or email Ride for Reading Coordinator Elese Daniel at elcmonet@gmail.com.

Summer Scholars Heat Things Up, June 8

When school is out for summer, WordPlay’s Summer Scholars keep learning alive. This summer’s six-week session starts Monday, June 8, and runs Monday through Thursdays from 3 till 6 pm. Every day offers new opportunities for discovery, as well as trips to the farmers’ market, a community garden, the library and more.

This summer, we’re particularly excited about a new partnership with our neighbor Visionaries and Voices. Every week, WordPlay scholars will visit with artists at V+V to learn about their work and the basics of visual art.

First priority for registration goes to students whose families meet free-lunch eligibility, but all are welcome to join the summer fun, including new tutors! If you can spare a few hours this summer to learn, have fun and make a difference in our neighborhood, we want to hear from you. Email info@wordplaycincy.org to learn how you can get involved.

By Elissa Yancey. Co-Founder and Chair of the Board at WordPlay Cincy, Elissa is the Director of Media and Communications for the Office of the Provost at the University of Cincinnati. She is also an inaugural Images and Voices of Hope Fellow working on a long-form restorative narrative.

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