Nashua program aims for literacy

It’s not quite year-round schooling, but there is a definite upside to the new summer program being run by the YMCA of Greater Nashua.

The idea behind the Sum­mer Learning Loss Preven­tion program is to keep kids learning – especially chil­dren from low-income fami­lies – during the summer months.

"The goal is really to bridge the gap for these stu­dents so they don’t start the school year with the cards stacked against them," said Nashua site director Rebec­ca Leary, a Hudson M i d d l e S c h o o l sixth-grade E n g l i s h teacher.

S e v e n ­teen first-and second-graders are participating in the six-week literacy and enrichment program being held at the Ledge Street El­ementary School in Nashua. That’s a little more than half of the students they can ac­commodate, but it repre­sents a decent start for a pilot program that is part school, part summer camp.

The goal of the Summer Learning Loss Prevention program is to have all partic­ipants reading at grade-level by third grade, and summer is an ideal time to help chil­dren make progress.

"Kids from low-income families lose, on average, two and half months of reading during the summer. With the program, instead of losing, they’re gaining," said Joe Manzoli, chief op­erating officer at the YMCA of Greater Nashua. "The achievement gap is real; it’s here in Nashua."

To help close the gap, the full-day program includes morning literacy lessons and afternoon activities such as sports, field trips, music and art. By mixing the literacy with other ac­tivities, children learn to associate reading with fun, which is important.

The children are also get­ting access to free books – which they collect from reading activities and field trips. Research shows stu­dents who read on their own are more likely to be successful later in life, and chil­dren who grow up with books in the home also do better.

This year’s program is underwritten by a $30,000 grant from the YMCA of the USA and $5,000 from TD Bank, although the local group will have to find their own funding sources after this year.

We hope they get it, be­cause investing in a low-income child’s literacy gives them a shot at breaking the cycle of poverty.

"Learning to read is criti­cal to a child’s success – both in school and in life," reports the organization FirstBook. "Literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success. But a child without access to books won’t have the chance to become an en­gaged and capable reader