With bags of books in hand, 300 people knocked on the doors of Newhallville neighbors to talk about literacy.
On the first warm day of spring with the sun shining over head, residents, neighborhood police officers and city officials took to the neighborhood’s streets Saturday as part of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative’s community canvass.
After a full breakfast and words from Mayor Toni Harp, who has vowed to increase the number of New Haven schoolchildren reading at grade level, the volunteers got their marching orders for the day. Malcolm Welfare (pictured), leadership coordinator for New Haven Public Schools, hipped them to the script for the canvass, encouraging them to make it their own as they talked to neighbors about the importance of reading and provided them access to services.
City Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett (pictured) reminded everyone to talk to neighbors about the many resources available and to get contact information for anyone who wanted to be connected to resources so someone could follow up later. Bartlett said the focus of the canvass this time around was a bit different than it had been in the past, with its added focus on reading. “When we connect with someone we want to talk to them about adult literacy as well because we believe there is a correlation between the literacy levels of the parent with the level of the child,” he said.
Brother and sister team Ghammam and Natalia Mansoor (pictured at the far right and left of this photo) joined forces with veteran canvasser Nick Gauthier (pictured center), who helped the two James Hillhouse High School students with some pointers.
Gauthier has canvassed for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and State Sen. Gary Winfield’s special election. His best tip: Perfect the friendly knock. He showed volunteers how to do a knock that could be loud but non-threatening, so it doesn’t sound like the police are at the door.
Natalia, 16, who served as the team’s navigator for the day, said she decided to canvass for two reasons: “I adore books and I need the community service hours, so why not do some community service that includes something I love.”
Ghammam said for him it was more than wanting to complete his community service hours, but a real desire to help his community. “I just believe that you should want to do things for your community,” he said.
When Natalia’s knock at the first house actually found somebody home, she launched into her spiel, a little shaky but determined to plow ahead. Not only did she manage to hand off a bag filled with information about resources on literacy and bullying, but she also got the neighbor’s email address for follow up contact.
“That was a little strange,” she said. “That was really good,” Gauthier said. “You’re already a pro.”