By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee
Five years ago my wife Anne-Marie and I started the committee Worcester: the City that Reads to bring books to all children in Worcester. Research continues to point out that reading regularly increases one’s vocabulary and improves skills.
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/her skill develops rapidly. The more he/she reads, the better he/she reads and the more he/she brings to each new reading experience. It is because of those reasons that Worcester: the City that Reads was started. The week of June 12 is the culmination of our and many others’ efforts over the past year with the Third Annual Literacy Week.
Activities for the week:
There will be a proclamation read by Mayor Joseph O’Brien in the City Council Chambers declaring the week as “Literacy Week in our Community.” During the week across the city our Worcester Public Schools will have their “Kick-off for Summer Reading.” Parents at many schools will also be informed that they will be able to borrow books from their school library for summer reading. Celebrity reading events as well as book character events will take place in the schools.
The arts program has also tied in the theme with reading. Art teacher Kimberly Marshall is creating a HUGE Clifford, the Big Red Dog, at Grafton Street School which will be used to motivate student reading. Art teacher Susan Kellogg at Woodland Street School has classes working on literacy through the visual arts, art teacher Cindy Wiffin at her two schools, Tatnuck and Wawecus Road School, has a focus on literacy and Art teacher Tina Glodis is working with a first grade teacher, Laura Weiss at Heard Street School on a series of books by Kevin Henkes.. The art lessons were planned to complement her ELA lessons, while still true to the standards for the arts. “These are just a few of the many projects taking place by the art department in honor of Literacy Week,” said Art Director Kathy Ivanowski.
Throughout this special week all school nurses will be wearing buttons that read “Summer Reading is Fun.” In addition, at the Health Centers located in the Worcester Public Schools, the nurses will take the time to read to the children throughout the week.
The YMCA, Greendale branch will have older children read one-on-one with younger children as well as read to them as a group. The Central Branch YMCA will be inviting parents to come in and read in their child’s classroom.
The Worcester Public Library MCBA Book Discussion Group will meet on June 14 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, Levi Lincoln Room, to discuss Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate. The library will also have Inch by Inch, Row by Row on Saturday, June 18 at 9:00 a.m. to help plant the children’s garden. In addition, the Friends of the Worcester Public Library “Beach and Backyard” book sale will be held on Saturday June 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Books for adults and children are 25 cents each (buy 4, get one free). The sale will take place in the Main Library Lobby. This is a great way to put books into the hands of children for summer reading.
The Worcester Tornadoes sponsored the “Home Run Club” during the month of May. The students in grades K to grade 3 who read 16 books, and in grades 4 to 8 who read 400 pages, will be rewarded with a ticket voucher to a future Tornado game during the summer time. In addition, the Worcester Tornado personnel will be reading at various schools during the week, as Twister makes some special appearances.
During Reading in Our City Week the Rainbow Child Development Organization will have a celebrity reading day for its after school program, and U. Mass Memorial employees will be reading at various schools throughout the week.
Literacy Volunteers is welcoming anyone over the age of 18 who is interested in becoming a tutor to join them during the week of June 12 by stopping at their office at the Worcester Public Library. According to director Laure D’Amico, their focus presently is on the enormous influx of new residents to Worcester who are desperate to learn English.
They will also be having a special program on June 14 (Flag Day). They will be sharing stories that involve American history and citizenship. All interested adults will meet at the Literacy Volunteers office at 1:00 p.m. in room 332, at the library with a blanket for sitting on the lawn of City Hall. If it is raining, the event will be held at the library.
Jopa’s Webster House on Webster Street will also be involved in promoting literacy during the week. The restaurant will be giving out books to elementary school children who come in with their parents and have written about their favorite book.
Head Start of Worcester will be giving children a literacy backpack. These backpacks for four year olds leaving Head Start contain age-appropriate books for the children entering Kindergarten, the Worcester Public Schools reading list, tips for parents on the importance of reading to their children, hours of operation at the libraries in the community, a calendar of easy educational materials using things in the home and tips for easing the transition to kindergarten for the fall. They will also have transition backpacks for those students returning to Head Start next year. Emphasis will be on assisting parents on how to raise a reader at an early age. Head Start will also be offering an extended year program at their Greendale site for those families who meet the eligibility requirements. The program will start on June 15 and go until August 10.
The African Community Education (ACE) will review the summer reading list with the students and work with parents, through the community with outreach volunteers teaching about the importance of summer reading. Worcester: the City that Reads has given ACE books for their summer program.
TD Banknorth is encouraging students to read 10 books this summer. Students are encouraged to go on line at TDBanknorth.com/summerReading and print the summer reading form. Students are to write down the names of the ten books that they have read and take the form to the nearest TD Banknorth bank to get $10.00 deposited into a new or existing Young Savers account.
Edwards Street Day Care director Dianne Bruce said that through a grant collaborative they are promoting pre-school literacy. Every child who registers for Kindergarten in the Worcester Public Schools this year will receive a key. They will be instructed to bring the key to the Worcester Public Library where they will receive a treasure map. The map is designed to introduce them to features of the library – circulation desk/foreign book collection/DVD’s etc. They will eventually find the treasure chest. Their key will open the chest and they will receive a copy of Ms Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.
The kick-off for treasure chest “event” took place on June 1 (after school open houses) with local celebrity singers “Chuck and Mud” entertaining the children at the library. If you missed the opening the treasure chest event is still in progress – during the summer the children and their parents can come in with their key and get a copy of the book.
RSVP has an active literacy team and they have a number of events taking place throughout the week. Story Walk will take place with Audubon at Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary. Created originally by Anne Ferguson of the Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Vermont, pages of a children’s story is affixed to a presentation board which is then attached to a post. Post are placed some distance from each other along a hiking trail, footpath or in a park where pedestrians may stop at their leisure to read before moving on to the next page.
RSVP also has a “stitching for literacy” taking place. This is a volunteer effort including members of the Worcester Southeast Asian community to provide three handmade counted cross stitch bookmarks to each elementary school during “Reading Week.” The bookmarks are to be awarded to students who demonstrate a love of reading. Other sponsored activities by RSVP include a Vernon Hill School Pond Project and a writing activity, The Story Train for pre-school classes. Volunteers dress in train engineer hats and neck kerchiefs will read aloud from books selected to reinforce classroom lesson themes. They also leave each book read behind so that the children may enjoy looking at them over and over again.
Other groups participating in Reading Week include Plumley Village Resident Staff with their program entitled, “Let’s get Ready for Summer”, UMass Memorial Community Relations Department, Literacy Program and a host of other agencies.
The events have continued to grow, for the goal is the same: spread the importance of literacy throughout the community and instill in a love of reading in our children.