By Michelle Kinsey —
MUNCIE, IN —“Some pig” is going to be pretty popular this month in Muncie.
“Charlotte’s Web” will be the focus of a community-wide reading initiative, culminating in Muncie Civic Theatre’s production of the classic tale at Southside Middle School.
Written by E.B. White and first published in 1952, “Charlotte’s Web” is the story of an unlikely and ultimately “tremendous” friendship between a pig and a spider.
And tremendous friendships are exactly how this community reading initiative came to be.
The friendship between local organizations-Muncie Civic Theatre, Heart of Indiana United Way, Muncie Community Schools, and Muncie Public Library – and their leaders led to a conversation and a web of ideas designed to get kids-and families -excited about reading.
When Muncie Civic Theatre’s Executive Director Laura Williamson chatted with her friend Jenni Marsh, President and CEO of Heart of Indiana United Way, about expanding access to the story of Wilbur and Charlotte beyond the stage, it was, as Marsh put it, “an easy thing for us to enthusiastically say ‘yes’ to!”
“We quickly brought Muncie Civic, Muncie Community Schools, and Muncie Public Library together to imagine how we might collaborate,” Marsh added. “From those early discussions came the idea of creating a community-wide literacy experience.”
Highlights of this community-wide initiative include:
- Every third and fourth grade student in Muncie Community Schools will receive a free copy of the book, thanks to support from Northwest Bank and Altrusa Foundation.
- Muncie Public Library has audio versions of the book on Libby and Hoopla available for families to check out and listen to together.
- Muncie Civic Theatre will be offering four free daytime school matinees for MCS students, sponsored by Meridian Health Services.
- Muncie Community Schools students will be making “Charlotte’s Web”-themed art and preparing special songs that will be part of the Civic Theatre’s performances.
- Muncie Civic Theatre will offer free performances of the play for families participating in this community read initiative—thanks to support from Northwest Bank.
- Muncie Altrusa Club will be reading “Some Pig,” an early-reader picture book version of “Charlotte’s Web.”
- Several childcare centers and after-school programs are working on crafts, activities, and games they can share with each other and families to build interest and fun around the story.
- Muncie Public Library has sets of the book for book clubs and small groups to check out and enjoy together.
- Muncie Civic Theatre will present “Charlotte’s Web,” as part of its regular season, at Southside Middle School, Sept. 15-17, 22-24. Learn more at HeartOfIndiana.org/read/.
“We feel very fortunate to have this partnership with the Civic and be able to impart that lesson in such an engaging way,” said Dr. Lee Ann Kwiatkowski, Director of Public Education and CEO of Muncie Community Schools. “The fact that all MCS families can request free tickets to a performance that will be held at Southside Middle School also helps us engage our families, which is something we are always looking to do.
“We are also extremely grateful to Heart of Indiana United Way for investing in our students by making copies available to our elementary classrooms to read together, and for all our third and fourth graders to be able to have their own copy to keep. It’s just a wonderful project that benefits everyone involved.”
As the convener and leader of Muncie’s early literacy initiative, Heart of Indiana United Way truly understands the issues facing our community when it comes to reading proficiency.
“Too many of our children are falling behind in reading — the single greatest predictor of their success in school and life,” Marsh said. “This is not their whole story … nor will it be the end of their story.
“The only way to solve our community’s toughest challenges—like ensuring our children are reading at grade level—is by working together. Because everyone has a role to play in protecting children’s right to read—we are calling together Muncie’s families, community members and systems leaders to help bring transformative ideas to life.”
Bringing the story to life on stage with Muncie Civic Theatre is a wonderful way to take the story from page to stage, which is also the name of a Civic program that aims to do just that.
“This [Page to Stage] program is designed to assist children with reading while simultaneously bringing the magic of theater to the classroom,” Williamson said, adding that the theater kicked off the project last year at Southview Elementary School. “Muncie Civic Theatre had a meaningful experience with Page to Stage, and since we were planning to produce shows off site this fall due to our stage being renovated, it felt like a great opportunity to bring the classic ‘Charlotte’s Web’ to the Muncie Community Schools.”
Williamson said her hope is to reach MCS families who have not yet experienced live theater.
Marsh is hoping that this project simply brings “joy.”
“Whether it’s reading the book together, or watching the play together, I hope people enjoy coming together over this very special story—as we have enjoyed coming together to work with Civic, the library, and Muncie Community Schools on this community read,” she said.
This community read partnership also includes support from George and Frances Ball Foundation and Dr. Kay Stickle.
“At its heart, ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is about the power of friendship, which is a beautiful theme for children, but also for adults!” Williamson said. “It’s so easy to become absorbed in our own day-to-day routines. A partnership on this scale between multiple organizations takes time and communication between all of our staff members, which also provides an opportunity to meet new people. And life is just better, and we can achieve more, when we are working alongside people that we know and trust, when we’re working with friends.”
You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. – Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
About Heart of Indiana United Way
Heart of Indiana United Way was established in July of 2021 when two organizations, United Way of Delaware, Henry & Randolph Counties and United Way of Madison County (which also serves Fayette County) joined forces to help more people across east central Indiana thrive. Heart of Indiana United Way improves the quality of life across those five counties by engaging people and organizations to advance education, financial stability, and equity.