January 15, 2013
From the Hartford Courant
Rockville Public Library has received one of the first grants made through the “READy for the Grade” program, which is part of the NewAlliance Foundation’s public library summer reading initiative. Grants totaling $420,000 are going to four Connecticut libraries for innovative projects designed to combat “summer reading loss.”
“READy for the Grade” especially addresses findings that many students from low-income families lose ground in their reading skills during summer vacation. Awards of $35,000 per year over three years will support library projects working in partnership with a local school to maintain skills gained during the school year for students in kindergarten through grade three.
The Rockville Public Library will create an intensive summer-long program working with children identified by their partner, Maple Street School. Activities will include visits from professionals acting as Reading Role Models, such as firefighters and veterinarians, who will emphasize the importance of reading in their lives. Members of the Friends of Rockville Public Library will volunteer in the program to give one on one time with the young readers. Specially trained reading dogs will help young readers gain confidence in reading aloud.
The library will also collaborate with the Vernon Community Network for activities and volunteers for the program. Parents will be encouraged to participate in the program. Workshops and family dinners will give them suggestions on ways to strengthen their child’s reading skills.
The Vernon Board of Education has been a partner with the library from the beginning. The grant was written by Sharon Redfern from the library in collaboration with Jerry Griffin from the Board of Education. Mayor George Apel has given his support to the program by allowing town employees to be Reading Role Models.
Ms. Redfern says, “A lot of summer reading programs are designed for quantity. Using reading mentors and more one-on-one time will work to ensure children are understanding what they read and maintaining their skills. The grant will allow us to hire a project manager, reading consultant, interns to work with staff from the children’s department to run the program over the summer of the library. This is going to be a community effort. We hope to include local businesses as well as the board of education, town of Vernon and community networks.”
Maryann Ott, associate director of the foundation, points to research showing that students with low reading skills begin to fall dramatically behind after third grade. “The people who work in this field have a saying that has guided our focus on literacy and education,” Ott says. “They keep reminding us, ‘First you learn to read, and then you read to learn.’ If a child isn’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade, then it becomes almost impossible to keep up after that.”
“A lot of our grant making is about targeting the opportunity for improvement,” Ott says. “That’s what makes the ‘READy for the Grade’ projects so exciting. Each of these libraries has a vision for expanding access in innovative ways.”