Reading accomplished

Do you remember your favorite childhood book – that one that you read over and over until the cover wore down? Who were the characters that you loved so much that you imagined living in their world? 

Here at the Boys & Girls Club, we know that reading regularly as a young person supports academic success, and is one of the best ways to develop empathy. Stories can introduce children to a diversity of people, places, cultures and ideas – broadening their understanding of the world around them. Reading helps them imagine the adult they might become someday – and the adventures they might like to have. 

Access to reading materials has gotten easier for Club members with the recent partnership with Education Comes First. The mission of Education Comes First (ECF) is to address learning poverty (the inability to read and understand simple text by age 10) by “supporting out-of-school organizations that are established as youth development professionals.”

ECF recognizes that “out-of-school time programs are an essential and integral part of enhancing the academic and social well-being of a child” and that “after-school programs provide a strong base for nurturing children’s literacy development.”

Academic Success Manager Christopher Maloney says “Because of ECF, we are now better equipped to provide our members with what they need to excel academically.” 

                    

(Club members show off the medals they have received for high placement on the MCAS test)

Some of the reading support provided at the Club include:

  • The first 90 minutes of each weekday afternoon is specifically dedicated to study, homework, and independent reading.  
  • The Club has made available an extensive library of age-appropriate books and allowed for unstructured time each day to read or engage in private study. This library includes books in multiple languages and caters to our diverse population of kids.
  • To help support individual reading at home, a large quantity of bookmark book lights was purchased to give to our members who have shown particular interest in continuing leisure reading on their own time. 
  • Multiple Kindle E-readers were purchased to support reading across platforms and to embrace our population’s comfort with screens and modern technology.
  • A field trip to the Pollard Memorial Library provided a tour of the library, a demonstration of the check-out process, and supplied each member with their own library card

In addition to supporting a connection with reading materials, Education Comes First has helped revitalize the use of Khan Academy within the Club. Khan Academy is an American non-profit educational organization created in 2006 that provides online tools, such as short video lessons, online practice exercises and materials for educators. 

Khan Academy helps Boys & Girls Club staff identify strengths and weaknesses for individual students that will allow them to get additional help through Khan Academy, tutoring by Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell staff, or from their teachers. Although Khan Academy is free, many of the youth we serve do not have the technology at home for access. Being able to connect Club members with the technology and staff support needed to participate in Khan Academy helps advance members’ academic success. 

During this past fall, 49 Club members actively participated in Khan Academy, with 46 of these being able to get at least one skill per week marked proficient or higher. 

The results of the reading program have been equally exciting:

  • 78 8 -12 year old members participated during the school year, and 94 Club members participated over the summer. 
  • The number of members who take part in the dedicated study time is consistently growing and, on average, makes up about 25% of our daily attendance. 
  • We now are beginning to see a marked correlation between members who take advantage of this study time and members who regularly receive high grades on their school-issued progress reports.
  • While sharing grades and academic progress with Club staff is not compulsory, the members who do share this information have provided evidence to suggest that spending time in the Brain Center has resulted in higher grades and better test scores in school.
  • The average number of books read by our 8-12 year olds (over a three month period) is around 9 books. At this rate, our members can be expected to read approximately 36 books within a calendar year. 

Of 94 members surveyed this summer:

  • 69 reported having engaged in reading on their own this summer, whether at the Club or at home. 
  • These 69 members read 648 books this summer.
  • 56 of these members reported that they plan to continue reading on their own time (apart from assigned reading) as the school year commences. 
  • 45 reported reading regularly with someone from their family / household.

The numbers are exciting, but it is also important to understand how this program impacts each young person involved. 

Dylan (8) is one of the members who made use of our multilingual library. His comfort level with the English language is very limited and he often has to engage in the use of Google Translate to express himself. However, with the presence of libros en espanol in our library, he had the ability to participate in designated reading time with the rest of his peers. 

In fact, he enjoyed the book about the Statue of Liberty he found so much that he requested to take it home to continue reading on his own time. Hopefully, Dylan is now imagining the day he will visit the Statue of Liberty, along with anything else he wants to achieve in his very bright future.

 

Learn more about programs at the Boys & Girls Club on or website at www.lbgc.org.

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