Talk/Read/Succeed! – One Year Later
For Angela Huguley, the ‘Talk/Read/Succeed!’ program has meant support for herself and her four children as they navigate their way through a complicated world.
It has offered this family, Springfield Housing Authority residents, a way to break out of the cycle of disadvantage and point themselves toward a life of greater opportunity and productivity. It has offered them a future – something they lacked in high measure not long ago.
The program is a collaboration of the SHA and a dozen other Springfield-based agencies, with a basic goal of make children successful readers starting from the earliest ages and extending through grade three. To accomplish this ambitious goal, Talk/Read/Succeed! provides programming and services to adults and children of all ages, under the philosophy that children succeed best when their families learn good child-rearing skills and receive support at every turn.
“It’s been great for all of us,” said Huguley, who lives with her family at the John L. Sullivan Apartments in the Liberty Heights section of the city.
Families and children at the Sullivan and Robinson developments receive services under the grant, including workshops on improving communication, ESL, GED preparation, relieving stress, showing kindness, and enjoying nature. For children, programs like one recent afternoon play session focus on developing literacy, which includes reading, writing, and verbal skills.
One year has passed since a coalition of Springfield organizations came together to form Talk/Read/Succeed!, which is fueled by a $390,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. No fewer than 14 local groups and organizations collaborate in the program, which brings together home, school and community.
The United Way of Pioneer Valley is the lead agency administering the grant, with partners including the SHA, the Davis Foundation, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Springfield Education Association, Dorman and Boland schools, Springfield Collaboration for Change, Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative, Springfield Early Care and Education Partnership, Springfield Public Libraries, Behavioral Health Network, Springfield Parent Academy,and Partners for a Healthier Community.
Nine-year-old Tynasia Griffin, who lives at John I. Robinson Gardens in the Pine Point neighborhood, can easily articulate what Talk/Read/Succeed! is doing for her. It is giving her what many families stuck in the cycle of poverty do not get: The life skills and habits that lay the groundwork for success later in life. She is a regular at family sessions that deal with issues like communication skills, healthy diet and stress reduction, and she was among 30 Robinson children who attended a five-week summer program at Hiram L. Dorman Elementary School, where they worked on literacy skills via a nature-based curriculum.
“We read poems and books, we went on field trips, we learned a lot,” said the third-grader. “It helped me to write neater, to understand what I’m reading better, and to be able to calm myself down when I get upset.”
“Our main goal is to turn children into successful readers and learners,” said Maura Geary, director of literacy at the REB. “You need high literacy to be successful in every subject in school.”
Key to Talk/Read/Succeed success is full-time staff, one at Sullivan and the other at Robinson. Ana Grajales and Lynne Cimino collaborate on programming, and are in constant touch with both schools and families.
Children in TRS attend Boland and Sullivan schools, where teachers and administrators have hopped on board with Talk/Read/Succeed.
At Robison, young children attend Dorman, another strong partner in the program.
“We’re forming bonding relationships with these parents,” said Michele McBride, parent facilitator at Dorman. “They’re comfortable coming in here, we see them at school functions. It’s a big change. And statistically, everything you look at will tell you that parent involvement means success in school, better test scores, and higher graduation rates.”
This summer, the Springfield Education Association and the Hasbro Summer Learning Imitative teamed up to create a five-week summer school at Sullivan and Robinson that provided literacy enrichment and a kindergarten preparation for the incoming class of five-year-olds. Peer mentoring has been established at both housing developments
Talk/Read/Succeed! is beginning to show some impressive results.
Among the 22 participating children at the Boland summer program, eight jumped an entire reading level, and six jumped two levels. The rest gained either part of a year, or remained level, itself a feat during a time of year when most children lose reading skills.
At Dorman, 19 of the 26 participating children jumped one reading level, and three gained two levels.
“It’s a great program, and not only for the children but for the families,” said Francheska Correia, who lives at Robinson Gardens with her two young children, including Kay’Lees Santiago, who is seven and a Dorman second-grader.
Her daughter added, “Everything we do is fun. They teach us stuff and you still have fun.”