John Monfredo: Make Worcester ‘The City That Reads’ on March 3rd
Saturday, February 22, 2014
At the last school committee meeting in February I suggested that not only should we be part of the National Educational Association's “Read Across America” week starting the week of March 3rd but that we should tweak the theme and call it “Read Across Worcester” Week. The week also ties into the famous author Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday celebration or better known as Dr. Seuss. Across America, classroom after classroom will be reading Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham and a host of other books written by Springfield, Massachusetts' most famous author.
Highlighting the importance of reading
Every opportunity that we have to highlight the importance of literacy in this community we should do it. We need to put the importance of reading in the forefront of this community. Research continues to show that too many children from low-income families begin school already far behind. The research also shows that these children are less likely to be read to, be or spoken to regularly or have access to books, literacy –rich environments, high quality early care, or attend a preschool program. As a consequence, these children may hear as many as 30 million fewer words than their middle-income peers before reaching kindergarten. Research also shows that such interactions are critical for language development, an important precursor to literacy.
This research was my motivation to continue to look for opportunities to engage our community in reading. We do have many events taking place during that week but the entire community needs to become involved. Individuals can volunteer to read at various elementary schools in our community. They can donate books to the “Worcester: the City that Reads” book drive that will begin that week. This group was founded by my wife, Anne-Marie and me eight years ago in an attempt to promote literacy in our community and promote the importance of being a life time reader. This is the eighth year of collecting new and gently used books for children in grades pre-kindergarten to grade eight. In seven years we have given out over 170,000 books to the children in this community.
Getting everyone involved
In addition, we have asked the Worcester Public Library to continue their work with us and during the week of March 3rd they will have a number of special events taking place such as Toddler Time at 10:00 a.m. on Monday or Thursday… Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Bask will take place on March 3 rd from 3:30 to 5:00 with music, stories and cake… Turtle Soup at the teen room will that place there so join the editorial staff of WPL’s own teen magazine. The staff meets on Monday’s Wednesday’s and Fridays… (Ages are13-18 and it’s free)… Other events are P.J. Story time 6:00-6:30 p.m. at the children’s room for children ages 3-5 and in addition to story time the children brush their teeth and have their jammies on ready for bed. Other exciting programs include Baby Time, Chess Club, Lego Club and a whole host of other activities. The Worcester Public Library is the VERY BEST bargain in Worcester and most importantly it promotes literacy in our community. If you haven’t visited the library please bring your children there soon.
The newest baseball team in town, called the Worcester Bravehearts (A partnership with Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England) is owned by John Creedon, a Worcester resident. The team will send players to a few schools in Worcester to read to the students. General Manger Dave Peterson will do his rendition of “Casey at the Bat” at the Chandler Magnet School. In addition, our professional hockey team, the “Worcester Sharks” and their mascot will also be visiting schools in the name of “Reading.”
Our school nurses will not only focus on “Reading” by wearing their special pins but will also tie in the importance of good dental hygiene during the week of the 3rd.
Thanks to the “Reach out and Read” organization all our pre-school and elementary schools will have laminated posters that will be posted at the front entrance of the schools encouraging parents to read to their child. This organization is an evidence-based nonprofit organization of medical providers who promote early literacy and school readiness in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by giving new books to children and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud. Physicians in Worcester at Harding Pediatrics and UMASS Memorial Primary Care Pediatrics during the week of March 3rd will give Dr. Seuss books to patients at their child’s wellness visit.
Other activities taking place will have our schools engaging in a number of special events including celebratory readers in the classroom, book character day, and plenty of writing activities. Head Start sites will tie in Dr. Seuss’s birthday with the reading of Pete the Cat followed by activities for parents to do with their children. In addition, Mayor Joseph Petty will read a proclamation declaring the week be “Read Across Worcester.”
The role of parents
Parents are the first teachers and most important advocates for their children. Thus, here are some ideas for reading activities during the week:
- Make the week a special place at home with reading taking place each night and be sure to read one of Dr. Seuss’s books.
- Keep lots of books, magazines, and newspapers around the house. Please visit the Worcester Public Library.
Or how about having your children take the following READING pledge at home and at school.
I promise to read each day and each night.
I know it’s the key to growing up right.
I’ll read to myself, I’ll read to a crowd
It makes no difference if silent or loud
I’ll read at my desk, at home and at school
On my bean bag or bed, by the fire or pool
Each book that I read puts smarts in my head
‘Cause brains grow more thought the more they are fed.
So I take this oath to make reading my way
Of feeding my brain what it needs every day… compliments of N.E.A.
In Worcester, we have the momentum going for we have two book mobiles (Libby and Lilly) leading the way throughout our city and we have our “Worcester: the City that Reads” putting books into the hands of our children. It’s a start but more needs to be done. Perhaps our former first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy said it best, “There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.” Let’s make reading a priority in our City.
Related Slideshow: Central Mass Schools with the Highest Graduation Rates
Non-grad completers: Students that have successfully completed school according to local requirements, but whose MCAS test scores (scores lower than 220) prevent them from receiving an official diploma.
Students in cohort: Number of students eligible to graduate in 2013.
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