SHA’s family-based literacy program expands to Indian Orchard
The family-based literacy program that unites housing, schools and key services in the city is expanding to a third Springfield Housing Authority development and its neighborhood school.
Talk/Read/Succeed!, in its eighth year, has officially launched a partnership between Duggan Park Apartments and the Indian Orchard Elementary School. Other participating groups and organizations include the Indian Orchard branch of the City Library, the Springfield School Department, the Regional Employment Board, the Behavioral Health Network, and the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation.
SHA Executive Director William H. Abrashkin said the expansion of this nationally acclaimed program to a third family development will mean more focused programming at Duggan, aimed straight to the heart of early literacy and ultimately, financial independence among families.
“It is well known that the way to achieve good educational outcomes among children is to take a holistic approach and to work with families, community organizations, and especially schools,” Abrashkin said.
T/R/S! began in 2010 at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens Apartments and their feeder elementary schools, Boland and Dorman. The collaborative programming is ongoing, and includes forging strong family and school connections with a focus on literacy, parenting and employment. Ongoing assessment shows that participating families fare better all around, particularly among children who attend the summer programming and parents who take advantage of educational opportunities.
“Talk/Read/Succeed! helps move families toward self-sufficiency. It connects children and parents with schools and other services in a comprehensive way that has shown good results,” Abrashkin noted.
Indian Orchard Elementary School Principal Deanna Suomala agreed, saying she welcomes the new partnership.
“I am pleased to have support for the families which can provide the resources that children need at a young age,” Suomala said. “The families and the children need to have early literacy help and instill the mindset that reading is important. It is my hope that TRS will have a great impact on the students and their future.”
SHA Resident Services Director Pamela Wells will oversee the authority’s part in the expansion. She said it will mean additional and specifically targeting programming at Duggan that will include events that focus on literacy, the arts, parenting classes, job skills training and more.
“It’s another way to make good connections with parents and children at Duggan Apartmnets,” Wells said. “We’ll take the lessons learned at Sullivan and Robinson Gardens, and apply them at Duggan.
Of the 196 apartments at Duggan, 133 have been identified as qualifying to participate in T/R/S!, with children from birth to grade three living there. Programming under the expansion has already begun.
One recent T/R/S! event brought Duggan residents to the Indian Orchard library branch, where they were greeted by Mayor Domenic Sarno, Library Director Molly Fogarty, Assistant Director Jean Canosa Albano, Branch Manger Diane Houle and several SHA staffers, including Wells and Resident Services Coordinator Daisy Gomez, who will run T/R/S! operations at Duggan.
Sarno said he is happy to celebrate the expansion of T/R/S!, thanks to its goals of literacy for children and financial independence for their parents.
“We really appreciate this expansion and we’d love to see it grow to more places across the city,” Sarno said, giving specific credit to Abrashkin, who helped launch the program seven years ago and has remained a steadfast supporter. “He gets it,” Sarno said, “He sees a different vision for the Springfield Housing Authority.”
At the library branch event, children and parents work on arts and crafts, a trivia contest, a raffle and other projects that blend literacy, art and fun.
Also, families went home with gifts of books, part of a national collaboration of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, the National Book Foundation, the Urban Libraries Council, and the U.S. Departments of Education and Housing and Urban Development. SHA will continue to distribute those books at events through the summer.
Duggan resident brought her twin daughters Charisma and Julianna, 13, and said she looks forward to more T/R?S! events.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Campbell said. “We love the library, so we’ll be attending anything that goes on here.”
T/R/S! is a nationally-acclaimed “break the cycle” education program operating in three public housing developments in the Springfield, Massachusetts Housing Authority.
Based on research establishing that the earliest years of a child’s life are crucial for later success in education, T/R/S! provides families and children with on-site supports and a menu of coordinated services, starting at birth, that are needed for children to succeed in school and become productive, self-sustaining adults.
The immediate goal of Talk/Read/Succeed! is grade level reading by third grade – a key indicator of ultimate school success. Achieving this goal requires the wrap-around services that Talk/Read/Succeed! provides.
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