Literacy is a problem across the nation; and with the influx of many poorly educated immigrants, the problem is only getting worse. The city of Boston has done something about it, and partners with the Boston schools for one phase of its implementation.
In 1995, Mayor Thomas M. Menino founded the ReadBoston project to address the low literacy levels of the city’s youth. The project’s goal is to have all children in Boston schools reading on grade level by the completion of third grade.
ReadBoston targets children both before they enter Boston schools kindergarten and throughout elementary school. After school programs and summer activities extend the campaign to ensure Boston’s youth can read.
Before entering the Boston schools, ReadBoston partners with childcare centers, providing materials and training to help the centers establish and encourage home reading programs for the children who attend the centers. They also work with daycare teachers to improve their literacy teaching skills.
ReadBoston has two main programs under the early years literacy campaign — Early Literacy Links and The Reading Trail.
Early Literacy Links reinforces ReadBoston’s focus on the importance of early literacy by promoting more effective reading instruction through teacher training. Three literacy specialists and one resource librarian focus their efforts in a small number of childcare centers to help train teachers and daycare providers. Their focus is how to best prepare young children to become able readers.
The Reading Trail promotes family involvement in the literacy development of their children. Home lending libraries are established and maintained in childcare centers across the city to encourage children to read, to have a family member read to them, to visit the library, and to use individual “trail guides” to record the books they read. As the children reach milestones along the “trail”, they are given books and other reading incentives. Additionally, centers participating in The Reading Trail receive books to establish libraries and training on how to integrate family reading activities into their current curriculum.
Once children reach the elementary level within the Boston schools, ReadBoston is there to welcome them and assist the Boston schools to foster literacy home-school connections.
Within the Boston schools, ReadBoston breaks into four separate yet cohesive programs — the Family Literacy Project, Reading Is Fundamental, the After-School Project, and the Families And Books program.
Family Literacy Project :
• Encourages family involvement in children’s literacy;
• Sets up home lending libraries and provide the books in Boston schools elementary classrooms to take books home to read with their families;
• Promotes twice yearly parent-teacher conferences with an emphasis on literacy; and
• Provides teacher training and support to help each of the Boston schools incorporate the program into their existing curriculum.
There are currently 21 elementary level Boston schools participating in the ReadBoston program. They hope to eventually expand to every elementary school in the city.
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) :
• Provides three free books each year to participating students to create a home library of their own; and
• Develops fun activities to encourage reading as a worthy pastime for the children.
Each year ReadBoston gives three books to over 15,000 students within the Boston schools through the RIF program.
The After-School Project integrates literacy into the Boston schools’ after-school programs. Literacy specialists promote literacy instruction by providing literacy training, advice and books to increase literacy instruction and reading within the after-school arena.
Families And Books reach children during the off-school summer months, using two Storymobiles that visit 40 neighborhood sites each week during July and August. Each Storymobile provide fun storytellings for children, who also can take books to read at home. The two Storymobiles together carry over 10,000 books that may be checked out by the children.
In addition to the involvement of the Boston schools, a wide array of community members have joined the ReadBoston campaign — foundations, corporations, community groups, and individuals. They provide both funding and volunteerism. The community-sponsored book drives have garnered over 500,000 new books for the ReadBoston program, and over 1,700 tutors volunteer each week to help children learn to read — working in the childcare centers, the Boston schools classrooms, and the after-school programs. Boston and its community are serious about literacy for the city’s children.