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Youth Programs

Summer learning at Sullivan features fun times and literacy building

Summer learning at Sullivan features fun times and literacy building

For 11-year-old Jose Hernandez, the summer learning program at Sullivan Apartments is just plain fun, filled with reading books, playing games, doing arts and crafts, and going on field trips to cool places.

And Jose’s friends feel exactly the same way.

“It’s always fun coming here,” said Jose, who will soon be a sixth grader at the Chestnut Accelerated Middle School.

Jose Hernandez, 11, loves to read graphic novels and enjoys the summer learning program at Springfield Housing Authority's Sullivan Apartments.

Jose Hernandez, 11, loves to read graphic novels and enjoys the summer learning program at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments.

“I really, really like coming here. I’ve been coming to this since I was in the first grade. You read books, you talk about them, you do a lot of other things too. Plus that, you’re with your friends from school,” Jose said.

It is children like Jose that get the most out of the summer learning program, having gone through it many times.

The summer program comes courtesy of Talk/Read/Succed!, the family-based early literacy program that unites two SHA developments, Sullivan and Robinson Gardens, with their elementary schools, Boland and Dorman. The program includes many activities, both at the home setting and in the schools.

This year, the T/R/S! summer program at Sullivan has an enrollment of two dozen children in grades one through six. The model, a blend of literacy-related activities, reading and vocabulary building, and fun times, have been shown to keep at bay that ‘summer slide’ – the typical slipping of reading and other academic skills when school is out.

Research shows that the more summer learning program a child gets over the important growth years, the better they do at all academic skills, and in life, and children in the T/R/S! summer programs have proven that out since the program began six years ago.

At Sullivan, the program includes participation by the YMCA of Greater Springfield, which sends two staffers plus four junior counselors to run the camp component, and SHA, which supports with one teacher from the Boland Elementary School, where all participating children attend.

Zawadi Bilanga, 8 and teacher Joanne Lanzillo-Epaul read together at the summer learning program at Sullivan Apartments.

Zawadi Bilanga, 8 and teacher Joanne Lanzillo-Epaul read together at the summer learning program at Sullivan Apartments.

That teacher, Joanne Lanzillo-Epaul, oversees an early morning silent reading session, where children choose books from the library at Sullivan, as well as at Boland. Using up-to-date reading scores from the school, Lanzillo-Epaul interviews each child at the outset, and even goes to the Springfield City Library for books that match reading levels and interests.

“My goal is to have each student be excited about reading in the summer, and to continue to read and write,” Lanzillo-Epaul said.

“During the school year, so much of their reading is directed for them. This is a chance for them to read about what interests them. Each child has a book browsing bag that has books that they want to read,” she added.

That suits children just fine.

Siblings Amia and Orlando Morales said they knows they are reading a lot more than they would be without this program. Plus that, they’re having fun with their friends.

“I love reading. Books are good,” said Orlando, who is 7 and soon to be a second grader.

“I like books too, but the best stuff is the swimming and the arts and crafts and the field trips,” said his sister Amia, who is 8 and will enter third grade in September.

Christin Larocque, youth and outreach supervisor at the Springfield City Library, reads 'Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur!' a Palestinian folktale, to children from the summer learning program at Sullivan Apartments on a recent visit.

Christin Larocque, youth and outreach supervisor at the Springfield City Library, reads ‘Tunjur! Tunjur! Tunjur!’ a Palestinian folktale, to children from the summer learning program at Sullivan Apartments on a recent visit.

Crystabel Davis, who is 9, said she appreciates that several of her friends from school are in the program, enabling them to stay in touch while they do constructive activities during summer vacation.

“This way, I get to see my friends every day. And we do a lot of different activities. I like the sports and the games,” said Crystabel, who will be a fourth grader.

Besides reading time, daily activities include outside play, inside games and activities that focus on literacy skills, group games, and regular visits to both Camp Weber in West Springfield and the state park in Northampton, where swimming is the main event.

There are also regular trips to the Springfield City Library and the Science Museum, both at the Quadrangle. On a recent visit, children were lucky enough to watch the Cat in the Hat launch his bid for president, with his running mates – Thing 1 and Thing 2 – in tow.

The summer program runs through August, continuing after that as an after-school program with the YMCA.

2878 days ago / Youth Programs
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