“READy for the Grade”

NewAlliance Foundation’s Public Library Summer Reading Initiative

“READy for the Grade,” NewAlliance Foundation’s Public Library Summer Reading Initiative, was inspired by the National Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Beginning in 2013, we have partnered with public libraries in our service area to reduce the loss in reading ability that low-income children often experience during the summer. Our hope is that a summer experience will help children maintain grade-level reading skills during the school years from kindergarten through grade three.

Connecticut has the largest educational achievement gap in the country. This gap is the difference in educational performance between Connecticut’s low-income and non-low-income students, and it disproportionately affects minority students, primarily African-American and Latino children.

In the spring and summer of 2012, NewAlliance Foundation conducted a competitive application process to select the winning library proposals. Each library was required to partner with a local public school serving low-income children, and to develop a plan for how they would encourage parents, guardians and other family members to be involved in and support their children’s learning and literacy.

Awards of $105,000 over three years were made to four winning libraries: Killingly Public Library, New Haven Free Public Library, Rockville Public Library, and Wallingford Public Library. Each library approached their local challenges with creativity and innovation.

Killingly Public Library has set up a reading lab in The Village at Killingly’s Dayville Affordable Housing community center. The project includes the addition of a reading specialist who tailors programs to individual children’s needs and coordinates with the schools. An additional reading program is offered at the main library for children from Killingly Memorial School.

New Haven Free Public Library’s project is in the Fair Haven Branch and works with children from across multiple elementary schools in the city. They combine small group reading lessons during the week, with once-a-week “parent nights” designed to engage the participating child’s whole family in literacy games, storytelling, and reading aloud, while providing attendees with a nutritious dinner.

Rockville Public Library in Vernon has created an intensive summer-long program in partnership with the reading specialist at Maple Street School. Children participate in intensive reading activities, literacy crafts, and special field trips.

Wallingford Public Library is working with the Moses Y. Beach School in specially designed weekly literacy events designed to encourage a love of reading with art and drama activities. They are also convening parents each week in a program that teaches creative ways literacy activities can be brought into the home. A bi-lingual paraprofessional helps coordinate parent activities and inspires the creation of a home culture that supports a love of reading.

New for 2016, is the expansion of “READy for the Grade” to include two new libraries from within our service area. Manchester Public Library and West Haven Library will join the inaugural libraries in three more years of creative summer programming aimed at reaching children at risk for loss of reading proficiency over the summer.

NewAlliance Foundation firmly believes that the public libraries selected to participate in “READY for the Grade” will be innovators for change and positively affect grade-level reading proficiency in low-income children in their towns. We hope to improve literacy, high-school graduation rates, and future employability and success by working together to narrow the achievement gap in Connecticut.