Young readers are winners at Sullivan Apartments
Brothers Jaylen and Javien Hutchins read books this summer for pleasure. But there were other rewards as well.
The brothers, 9 and 7 years old, were among more than a dozen young readers who were recognized for their summer efforts in a program organized by Springfield Housing Authority’s Talk/Read/Succeed! literacy program. Books came courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Book Rich Environments Initiative.
“I love to read, and this is the best book I ever read,” said Javien, proudly holding up his copy of ‘This is Black Panther’ by Alexandra West and Andy Schmidt.
SHA Executive Director Denise R. Jordan said the ability to read, and to love reading, are one of the important gifts one can give to a child.
“The love of reading is basically a solid path to future success,” Jordan said. “We are happy to promote early literacy in a program that encourages reading for pleasure, and reinforces the fun of reading. Summer reading can only be a good thing.”
Each participating child who read four or more books – many went over that – got a certificate, a McDonald’s gift card, and a warm and friendly handshake from T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos. They also got to take home three books from the library stash at Sullivan’s Community Center.
The rewards were given with COVID-19 restrictions in mind, outdoors, spread out, and with all wearing masks.
Burgos said some 22 children participated in the Sullivan Summer Reading Challenge this summer. Thanks to T/R/S! and many donors, families at the housing development off Stafford Street have access to books, most with their own home libraries.
“We do this every summer so that we can support our children to continue with their Literacy skills. It is important to continue to create good reading habits, when school is not in session,” she said. “It is imperative to continue to support our children to read. I always tell the residents to take every moment and opportunity to help their children create great reading habits.”
Children agreed that the program was fun. They also loved being recognized for their efforts.
“Reading is so much fun,” said Jaylen, a fourth grader at the nearby Boland Elementary School. “I like it a lot. It just makes you feel good, like an adventure. You can imagine the place you’re reading about.”
Jaylen held up his favorite summer reading material, ‘Flat Stanley’ by Jeff Brown.
Their mother, Ana Navarro, said the program is always good because it keeps them busy in a constructive way. This became especially important with the social limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted.
“It was a good thing for them to be doing in so many ways,” Navarro said. “It also keeps them on track for school, they don’t fall behind like they might otherwise. They love to read, as long as it’s something they’re interested in.”
Fourteen-year-old Nelson M. Rojas Jr. has been participating in the Sullivan Summer Reading Challenge since it began, and has moved up several reading levels since. He is a ninth grader at the Springfield Day School.
“I read quite a few books this summer,” he noted, holding up his personal favorite, ‘Beyond the Sixth Extinction’ by Shawn Sheehy. “This book is about animals that have gone extinct. I learned a lot from reading it.”
His father, Nelson M. Rojas Sr., said his son and daughter Alondra, who is 12, love to read and love participating in T/R/S! activities that promote literacy and family wellness.
“It was great to keep them practicing and keep their reading scores up,” he said.
Mom Zuleyka Sierra stopped by to pick up the reward for her daughter Zhyianna Greene, 6, who was attending school remotely in her apartment.
“She reads a lot,” Sierra said of her budding reader. “She can read up to four books a day. She’s so excited to be able to read the stories herself.”
Mom Yomary Smith also spoke for her daughter Joeliani Roche, who is 10 and a fourth grader at Boland.
“Joeliani read eight books this summer, and she loved it” Smith said. “I’m happy that she continued to read this summer. I know it will help her in school.”
In the words of Burgos, “Children are never too young to enjoy a book.”
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