Rock the CATWALK model profile: Margaret Bernstein takes passion for literacy to the streets with #WeReadHere

Editor’s note: This year we are highlighting some of the Rock the CATWALK community models – showcasing their talents, passion and careers leading up to the annual fashion show.

By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer


Margaret Bernstein

“I think we’ll really win in a community like Slavic Village when the fact that you have to read is echoing from every block,” said Margaret Bernstein, director of advocacy and community initiatives at WKYC.

Describing herself as a “nonstop advocate for mentoring and literacy,” Bernstein has worked to engage staff at WKYC to get behind the cause. As director of advocacy, she was able to get the initiative news coverage. She involved the station’s anchors and staff in the #WeReadHere social media campaign, which invited people to take a picture with their favorite book or for parents to snap a selfie while reading to their children.

“We put somebody on the news for doing something good; it made them feel good about themselves,” she said. “Secondly, they influenced their peers. ‘So-and-so is on the news for reading with their kid, maybe I should do it and get on the news too.’ I tried to create a ripple effect to encourage parents to read. That’s my new superpower, now that I work in television, I can use the power of TV to encourage people to do things that are important.”

This summer, WKYC won a regional Emmy for Community Service for its #WeReadHere campaign, sponsored by Third Federal Foundation. Bernstein’s next project is a neighborhood-centered campaign in Slavic Village, in conjunction with the Broadway P-16 program which supports students from preschool through college in Broadway/Slavic Village. Its key focus includes improved reading, higher attendance and higher graduation rates for local Cleveland schools.

She also adopted Little Free Libraries, which are small, outdoor boxes for readers to leave or take a book. Several have sprouted up across Cleveland and at local schools. One library is even adorned with an illustration from her book “All in a Dad’s Day,” which encourages dads to read with their children.

Finding her tribe

Bernstein is not alone in her crusade to get parents — especially dads — reading to their children. It’s one of the reasons she joined United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) last year. She first heard about the council while attending an event about the impact Sesame Street has on kindergarten readiness.

“I joined last year because I wanted to be a part of [WLC] — that’s my tribe,” she said. “Anybody who’s working in early education and kindergarten readiness and literacy, those are the people I want to hang out with.”

WLC’s signature cause through the remainder of the year is early childhood education. The council works to ensure children in Cuyahoga County have access to quality education.

“I think the [event] is awesome, but when I got to see the council actually bring together really high level women to talk about this topic, I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” she said.

As for Rock the CATWALK, it is Bernstein’s first year participating. While she attended last year, she doesn’t know what her boutique has in store for her. Currently, she loves accessorizing with “Little Library baubles.”

“I’m delighted to be getting a makeover because sadly my favorite accessories are literacy buttons and Little Free Library ball caps,” she said. “I think it will be fun to Rock the CATWALK.”

This year’s Rock the CATWALK is Thursday, November 3 at the Global Center for Health Innovation. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are on sale now. For more information, contact Megan Shadrach at mshadrach@unitedwaycleveland.org.

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