WordPlay is a space in Northside where children can come for free tutoring services and creative encouragement. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by improving the quality of life, education and opportunities for kids in Cincinnati.
In just more than three years, WordPlay has gone from seeing two to four students a day to somewhere around 160 kids a week. The growing organization provides academic after-school programs, creative writing workshops and summer programs for grades K-12. “WordPlay Scholars” is their academic after-school program reserved for children who meet the low-income criteria. “WordUP” is a creative program offered to students at Aiken High School and Hughes High School. “Happy Hour” is a creative workshop and is open to all, low-income or not. It is a time where children can collaborate in a creative format and learn from each other.
Volunteer: “Volunteers are just as valuable as money,” says Libby Hunter, co-founder of WordPlay. It is a goal for the organization to match each child with a tutor for a special one-on-one experience. This means that at any given time, WordPlay needs a volunteer team of at least 150 people. To begin volunteering as a tutor, first contact WordPlay through e-mail and schedule a training session (you’ll also need to pass a background check). During the school year, tutors must be 18 or older. Tutors should be able to make a commitment of two sessions per month, each two hours long. Literacy skill work, creative reading and homework time happens 3-5 p.m. Monday- Thursday — this is when tutors are needed the most.
Proficiency in school subjects is not a requirement for volunteers, but a genuine interest to be part of WordPlay is. During training, a lot of time is spent talking about the culture and the environment that is being created at WordPlay. “Having that one-on-one time with a kid makes a difference, even if you have to ask your neighbor for help with a homework problem,” Hunter says.
Behind the scenes, volunteers make up an advisory board to review and evaluate every program at WordPlay. Anyone with expertise in developing and assessing creative curriculum is encouraged to reach out and offer their skills.
“The Change Makers” is a working concept at the moment. The goal is to cultivate a group of young creatives willing to tap into their existing social networks and organize outreach events. “It will raise a little money but really focus on outreach and awareness of the issues WordPlay is addressing,” Hunter says. This is a unique opportunity to get on the ground level of WordPlay’s outreach program.
Donate: “Close the Gap” is a fundraising initiative created to benefit summer learning programs specifically. “Children from low-income households tend to not have equal access to summer enrichment programs,” Hunter says. “That is where they lose a lot of ground in terms of reading proficiency and other academic skills.” WordPlay provides free summer enrichment programs to help kids keep their skills up and stay on track.
WordPlay can never have enough school supplies, specifically copy paper, lined paper and composition notebooks. Donating gently used or new books is a cheap and easy way to help WordPlay succeed. Free books are offered for kids all year long. Check the attic for old typewriters to donate. A WordPlay volunteer works to recondition them for resale. The money from typewriter sales and repairs goes directly back into their programs.
This May, WordPlay is partnering with Spun Bicycles to host Ride for Reading, during which a parade of 60-70 cyclists will fill their bags and baskets full of donated books and ride them to Parker Woods Montessori. Volunteers will be waiting with tables set up to distribute the books to students. This means they will need a lot of book donations ahead of time. The organization is collecting books from now until the ride. “The kids are out in the parking lot and you would think it’s a Rock concert the way that they scream and cheer when the bike parade pulls in,” Hunter says. This is the fourth year WordPlay has done this, and Parker Woods is the biggest school so far, with 500 students. In the past, they have been able to give 10 books to each student.
For more information about programs and how to getting involved with WORDPLAY e-mail or visit .