Monfredo: Reading in Our City Week Calls Attention to Literacy
Sunday, June 10, 2018
Studies show that reading for pleasure makes a big difference to children’s educational performance. Evidence suggests that children who read for enjoyment every day not only perform better in reading tests than those who don’t, but also develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.
The importance of reading in a child’s life cannot be emphasized enough. The child who reads well will be more likely to find success while the child who reads poorly will be handicapped and always at a disadvantage in all aspects of his school life, as well as all other phases of his/her life in the future. Reading is the cornerstone of academic success central to a child’s overall health and according to research 75% of what we learn will come from the printed page.
Study after study finds that the ability to read well is the single best indicator of future economic success – regardless of family background. We know that once a child is “hooked” on reading his skill develops rapidly. The more he reads, the better he reads and the more he brings to each new reading experience. It is because of these reasons that my wife, Anne-Marie and I started “Worcester: the City that Reads.” For thirteen years we have continued our campaign to highlight the importance of literacy in the community by putting books into the hands of our children (600,000 in 13 years), sponsoring reading events, and literacy programs within the community.
Thus, this week a proclamation was read by Mayor Joseph M. Petty at the School Committee Meeting declaring the week of June 10 as “Reading in our City Week.” Within the community, many agencies will be promoting reading starting with the Worcester Public Schools. Celebrations will take place in many schools as they give out free books that were given to them through Worcester: the City that Reads.” In addition, many schools have invited parents to special reading programs and talk to them about summer reading opportunities for their child. The School Nurses will be wearing “Reading Badges” designed and made by Worcester Public Schools staff member and visual arts expert Elizabeth Vecchio.
A great deal of community involvement will take place during the week such as the Worcester Railers Hockey team reading at McGrath, Midland Street, May Street, and Vernon Hill Elementary with their loving mascot railyard dog, Trax… The Mass Audubon at Broad Meadow Brook will have books available and have scavenger hunts so that families can read and walk in nature together… The YWCA and the YMCA will provide reading materials to parents, free books, and a have parents read three books to be submitted for a raffle prize… The Friends of the Worcester Public Library will continue to sponsor a bookcase at Union Station which distributes books free of charge to those who travel by train or bus. People can take a book or leave a book to exchange for another book. Worcester Head Start throughout the week will be taking books on the move! Children will be enjoying a variety of special books in the warm spring air as they read outside both on their playgrounds and in other special outdoor spots. In addition, books will be given out to the parents for summer reading. The Belmont Zionist Church in their after-school homework program will continue emphasizing the importance of reading 20 minutes a day.
The same can be said of other organizations …Worcester Reads, the Worcester Public Library, African Educational Center, Plumley Village, Rainbow Child Development Center, the Girls, Inc., the Boys Club, Family Health Centers, UMass Medical and UMass Memorial, Worcester Bravehearts, the Worcester Education Collaborative, Literary volunteers, Guild of St. Agnes and a host of other agencies.
The reason for the timing of this event in June is to emphasize the importance of literacy as the students prepare for summer vacation. At this time of the year, the two-month layoff for summer does a number on those students who are not encouraged or not involved in summer learning activities. Since my days as a principal and then as a school committee member I have been espousing the dangers of academic loss … known as the “summer slide.” According to research, the summer slide takes place if children are not engaged in summer learning. Thus there is an academic loss and this is where the achievement gap widens if our students are not reading or not involved in the learning process during the summer time.
On the positive side, I thank the Worcester Public School administration in supporting my efforts to alert our parents about the importance of summer learning. The district has created a summer reading website to support parents and students in making book choices that match the student’s interest and reading level. In addition, they will suggest ways to parents how they can assist their child during the summer break on the website.
Due to budget constraints, we have a limited summer school program. I do hope that in the future we can expand the opportunities with additional summer school programs. Expanding summer school is not a luxury but a necessity, especially for those students not having the necessary resources at home.
All summer programs within the community as well as reaching out to our parents on how they can assist their child will be a benefit to the students and will help close the achievement gap. Simply put, if you cannot read you cannot succeed. In a nutshell that’s what “Reading Week in our City” is all about. Let me end the column with a quote from children’s book author Roald Dahl, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.”
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