Massachusetts YMCA Summer Literacy Programs Make a Difference

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Author Bio: Kate-Marie Roycroft is the Director of Health Initiatives for the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs where she advocates for health related policies and runs all statewide health programs for the 31 corporate Y’s. She also runs a number of Y pilots including a summer literacy program and a childhood obesity primary prevention program. Kate-Marie has an undergraduate degree in History and Business from Providence College and a Masters of Science in Public Affairs from the McCormack School at the University of Boston.

For most kids, summertime means, playing, camp, and vacation. But for many youth in Massachusetts s summertime means falling further behind academically. This is especially true for kids from low wage earning families.

It is no secret that low-income children most often start school unprepared. Despite progressing at the same or similar rates during the school year as other students, these students often fall farther behind their peers during the summer, widening the achievement gap. This is especially true for reading ability.

Multiple studies show that third grade reading skills can predict high school graduation.  Students who read proficiently by third grade are three times more likely to graduate than students who cannot read proficiently in the same grade.  Students who are falling into the achievement gap are not reading at grade level.  We cannot afford to lose these children from something so preventable.

To combat this gap, the YMCAs in the Commonwealth are creating opportunities for kids reading below grade level to catch up during the summer. Each Massachusetts YMCA has agreed to put a minimum of $20,000, one half from their state funding, towards running summer literacy programs and evaluating their impact during the summer. These programs include daily reading for their campers, journaling, and daily story time. Even more of the Massachusetts Y’s are piloting summer literacy programs through both the Y’s national office and the State Alliance.

Through the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs fifteen Y camp sites will be providing two and a half hours of literacy education for four days a week to rising third graders that are not yet reading at grade level. This instruction is taught by a Masters certified teacher and includes both staff and parent involvement. Not only are these Y’s providing literacy instruction to bridge the achievement gap but many of them will also be providing fresh and nutritional food for the students. The Y’s know it is difficult, if not impossible, to learn on an empty stomach, so they are taking the appropriate measures to make sure that every child is fed and ready to learn. Similarly, these Y’s will be providing a minimum of 60 minutes of physical activity a day to these students and fun and enriching field trips weekly.

Last summer a similar pilot showed a 76% improvement rate for children not yet reading at the third grade level. We know that this summer the Y’s commitment to reducing the achievement gap will show an even larger improvement rate as it is our goal to help as many students as we can succeed no matter their background.

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