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