Keys to Learning

In 2019, Junior League of The Woodlands returned the Literacy Carnival program back to its roots by rebranding to its original name, Keys to Learning. The program continues to promote literacy through the popular Literacy Carnival in the fall, while adding in science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math (STREAM) into new activities and events throughout the year. The change in name and focus aligns with current education methodologies and as these methods change over time, the new name allows the flexibility for the program to adapt.

Literacy is our Core

Literacy has always been at the core of our program and will continue to be the foundational block on which we build educational opportunities for children in our service area. If a child is unable to read, they are less likely to nurture their love of other subjects, such as science, technology, engineering, art or math. A lack of literacy can also lead to low self-esteem, unemployment and can limit a child’s potential for success.


Consider these statistics:

  • In Houston, almost one million adults are functionally illiterate.
  • Approximately 52% of adults in Harris County are functionally illiterate in English.
  • At least 31% of adults in Houston perform at the lowest level of literacy.
  • Texas ranks 47 out of the 50 United States in terms of English literacy.
  • Houston is listed at 49 in overall literacy out of America’s 64 largest cities.
  • 68% of those arrested, 75% of welfare dependents, 85% of dropouts and 72% of the unemployed are identified as functionally illiterate.
  • 3 of 4 Texas inmates are functionally illiterate.
  • 85% of teenagers appearing in juvenile court are functionally illiterate.

For more than a decade, Junior League of The Woodlands has promoted the importance of literacy by hosting JLTW Literacy Carnivals. Emphasizing reading, the carnival is held at the Aldine Buckner Hope Family Center, which works with impoverished families in the Aldine area. The carnival is open to families registered with the Buckner Foundation and children attending schools in Aldine and Humble ISD. Each family attending receives a hot lunch, snacks, free books, entertainment and a chance to participate in a variety of games and literacy-based crafts.

Promoting Literacy through STREAM

In the spring, JLTW is excited to partner with The Woodlands Children’s Museum to host our first annual theme-based STREAM event. Event activities, free books and entertainment will align with the chosen theme and the concept of STREAM, with the theme changing each year. Our goal is to create an engaging event that encourages interaction between parents and children, promotes literacy and introduces children to science, technology, engineering, arts and math, while teaching them how these subjects can interconnect with each other. It’s our hope that their experience will be rewarding and will leave them excited to return each year to see what new STREAM concepts they can learn!

Little Free Libraries

Keys to Learning helped establish Little Free Libraries located at the Aldine Bucker Hope Family Center and Creekside Forest Elementary and will continue to maintain these locations. Our goal is to facilitate the installation and maintenance of two new Little Free Libraries each year.

The Dictionary Project

Being able to read at grade level is meaningful at any age, but third grade is the crucial year when students make the leap from learning to read to reading to learn. In 2012, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published the following findings:

  • One in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.
  • Overall, 22 percent of children who have lived in poverty do not graduate from high school, compared to 6 percent of those who have never been poor. This rises to 32 percent for students spending more than half of the survey time in poverty.

The Dictionary Project aims to assist all students in becoming good writers, active readers, creative thinkers, and resourceful learners by providing them with their own personal dictionary. The dictionaries are gifted specifically to third-graders for use at school and at home for years to come. Each year, JLTW donates $1500 to The Dictionary Project to benefit third graders at a Title I school located in our service area. By supporting third grade literacy, we hope we can decrease the number of children that become a part of the staggering statistics.

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Sources: National Adult Literacy Survey, Texas Adult Literacy Survey, U.S. Department of Education, University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, Youth Plus, Literacy Advance, Houston Chronicle Readers are Leaders Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation “Double Jeopardy: How Third Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation.”