February and March focus on literature at Sullivan Apartments
Young readers at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments got a special treat during the second and third months of the year.
The months of February and March, set aside to highlight African American and Women’s History, took on a special hue at Sullivan with ongoing read-aloud sessions, done on Zoom to comply with Covid-19 precautions.
Every other Thursday, children were invited to open up their laptops and join in the fun, with Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos leading the readings and lively discussions. T/R/S! is SHA’s family-based early literacy program.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said early literacy has long been a priority at family developments, and read-aloud events are more important than ever what with safety restrictions during the pandemic.
“We’re happy to do anything we can to promote events and activities that get develop and sustain a love of reading among our children,” Jordan said. “It is well established that the more children read, and the better they read, the better they do in their lives.”
T/R/S! began 11 years ago, a collaborative effort with family housing developments, their neighborhood schools, and an array of organizations and groups with a united goal of promoting literacy. Housing developments and schools involved are Duggan Park Apartments and Indian Orchard Elementary School, Robinson Gardens Apartments and Dorman Elementary School, and Sullivan Apartments and Boland Elementary School.
As with other locations, Sullivan has worked hard to keep families and children engaged even as activities are limited by Covid-19 precautions.
The February and March readings were intended to keep children reading together, and to educate them about the many historical role models they have in areas of African American and Women’s history.
Burgos said she has introduced books in both areas, with titles and authors including two from the ‘Little Leaders’ series: ‘Bold Women in Black History’ and ‘Exceptional Men in Black History’, both by author Vashti Harrison.
All books in the two-month program came from SHA’s partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Book Rich Environment Initiative.
“With Black History month and Women’s’ History Month, I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity for them to learn of our heroes and how they impacted our society in a positive way leading and paving the way for others to learn and read about,” Burgos said.
Burgos aptly titled the events ‘Learning about our Black history heroes’ and ‘Learning about our Women’s history heroes.’
Attendance at reading nights varied, with a half-dozen regularly logging in for the read-aloud sessions.
Through this program, children learned about the important contributions black men made in the world of sports, including playing and coaching. They heard about former Boston Celtics basketball center Bill Russell, recipient of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award.
They also read about American abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman, who was born into slavery in 1822, escaped, and made 13 missions to help others become free.
Burgos said the children benefitted greatly by the readings. She is following up by having them draw portraits of the people they learned about, in a related project.
“I will put it together so it will be a book for each of them to have,” she said. “When it’s done we’ll do another Zoom chat about it.”
“The children enjoyed reading about the different important women and men , and were excited about sharing what they learned with each other,” Burgos added.
Burgos believes that with social interactions so limited by the Covid-19 pandemic, reaching out in other ways becomes much more crucial so that children can see each other and interact.
“It is so important to continue to connect with our children at Sullivan, especially at this time. They continue to connect with each other via Zoom. It’s a chance for them to keep their relationships and friendships, and learn together,” she said.