Talk/Read/Succeed! shines at leadership conference
The nitty gritty details of boosting early literacy came to life when Springfield Housing Authority Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos summed up the local situation at a recent leadership conference.
The Early Literacy Leadership Summit, conducted online via Zoom, featured Burgos and a host of other early literacy professionals from across Western Massachusetts. The three-hour session offered many opportunities to share best practices, services and materials for the benefit of all.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said the summit shined an important light on the Talk/Read/Succeed! Early literacy program offered at three family public housing developments.
“The T/R/S! program at Duggan Park, Robinson Gardens and Sullivan apartments helps to give families and children a boost in reading and literacy,” Jordan said. “It’s been proven over and over that early literacy is a key to success in school and later, in life.”
The leadership summit is the second annual sponsored by Reading Success by 4th Grade, a community initiative with the goal of all of Springfield’s children reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. The collaboration includes many participants, including SHA’s T/R/S! program, Springfield City Library, the Springfield School Department, the Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Reach Out and Read, Raising a Reader, Springfield Museums, Square One, and others.
T/R/S! was launched in 2010 as a uniting force between the developments and their neighborhood elementary schools. At Robinson Gardens, staff and families partner with Dorman Elementary School. At Sullivan, it’s Boland Elementary School. At Duggan Park, which joined the program in 2017, it’s the Indian Orchard Elementary School.
At the summit, Burgos explained how she and three other staffers – two are outreach coordinators and two are youth engagement coordinators – reach out to families and children in a holistic way with the single goal of boosting literacy.
“At all of our events, we hand out books to children, helping them to build and nurture their own private libraries at home,” she said. “We know that children who have books at home read more, and love reading more.”
Books come courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Book Rich Environment Initiative.
“It’s been very challenging in a lot of ways, but we are reaching out to our residents with online events and in any way that we can,” Burgos said. “We are always thinking of new ways to have a positive impact on our families, especially with the children.”
Other speakers at the event included Mayor Domenic Sarno, state Sen. Eric Lesser, state Reps. Angelo Puppolo and Orlando Ramos, City Councilor Kateri Walsh, former Massachusetts Commissioner for Early Education and Care Tom Weber, Lectio Executive Director Kelly Kulsrud, and representatives of participating agencies.
In attendance were SHA Resident Services Director Pamela Wells and T/R/S! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino. Both praised Burgos for explaining the ongoing work on early literacy at the city’s largest housing provider.
“The summit was a chance to get together and share our best practices in terms of our literacy efforts,” Wells said. “It was good to hear from many of the people and agencies involved in this shared effort. Zenaida did a great job explaining what we are doing here at SHA with our T/R/S! program.”
“The entire summit was good. It was an excellent overview of program and organizations in the city,” Cimino said. “Listening to panelists reminds me of new partners for T/R/S! I think about evaluation of programs and reaching out to partners to assist with it.”
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