M.S.Ed. students Jessica Bialkowski and Andrea Nicolia accepted the Literacy Alive! gold award on behalf of a collaborative Halloween program that was presented by Niagara University and the New York Power Authority.

A Halloween-themed children’s literacy program organized by Niagara University students and the New York Power Authority has been honored with one of five national Literacy Alive! gold awards from Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education.

Andrea C. Nicolia, president of NU’s Alpha Alpha Beta chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, accepted the award during the society’s annual convocation, which was held Oct. 22-24 in Orlando. Nicolia also participated in a panel discussion that apprised attendees on how to host a successful Literacy Alive! program.

“Getting to meet other professionals in the field, attending the workshops and getting to hear the amazing keynote speakers was truly an incredible experience. And being able to receive the award on behalf of Niagara University was an honor,” stated Nicolia, a Niagara University graduate who is currently pursuing a master’s in school counseling from her alma mater.

Nicolia was joined in Orlando by Jessica Bialkowski, a fellow NU alumna pursuing an M.S.Ed.

NU’s College of EducationFamily Literacy Center and Alpha Alpha Beta members joined with the New York Power Authority to present a Halloween Spooktacular last Oct. 25, an event that linked literacy skills to various Halloween-themed activities. It was held at NYPA’s Power Vista, adjacent to the NU campus.

As part of the program, children in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in a spooky story writing center, a Halloween read-aloud, and arts and crafts stations. The lessons and activities created by the student-volunteers encouraged literacy in multiple formats, exposed families to the importance of literacy integration, and stressed the ease of incorporating literacy into their everyday lives while promoting the value of higher education.

“We work together to create games and activities that tie literacy into the content that’s being learned in the classroom,” stated Kayla Jaehn, one of the advanced literacy candidates who helped coordinate the event, along with Colleen Harrison, Carly Dunlop and Erin McMahon. “Tying school subjects into a fun game is a good learning strategy. We were ‘hiding’ learning within games and activities about Halloween, which was very rewarding.”

Kappa Delta Pi chose the Halloween Spooktacular program for one of five gold awards from more than 150 projects that were submitted. Niagara took top honors in the “strong community partnership” category. Five silver and six bronze awards were also granted.

“The Halloween Spooktacular was a success thanks to the hard work of our students, faculty and staff, and our wonderful partnership with the New York Power Authority,” said Dr. Kathleen McGrath, assistant professor of education and director of NU’s Family Literacy Center. “In Niagara Falls, data shows that 72 percent of adults read at a fourth grade functional literacy level, so these types of programs are critical for NU as we continue to fulfill our mission of strengthening the local community through education.”

Literacy Alive! is Kappa Delta Pi’s signature service initiative that invites members to create programs and events in their communities that bring empowering literacy skills to their participants. Through this initiative, 57,052 people were served and 44,625 books were collected for distribution last year.

Niagara University’s Family Literacy Center assists children in grades 1-8 from throughout Western New York who may be experiencing difficulty with reading comprehension. In addition to diagnostic and remediation services, the Family Literacy Center also offers an Enrichment Book Club Program, which allows children to engage in active learning and provides them with opportunities to speak, interact and exchange points of view. Over the past two years, 100 percent of the 160 children the Family Literacy Center has served have increased their reading levels. Additional information on the Family Literacy Center can be obtained at 716.286.8306 or ude.aragain@clf.