Looking ahead in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood, we are energized and excited to continue working toward our vision to support educational opportunities for Central’s families and children. The area of education is broad and diverse, and this year, Promise is focusing in on building literacy and encouraging reading among families and children in Central.
Our partners at The Literacy Cooperative have shared some staggering statistics: There is a 30-million word gap between 3-year-old children from professional families and their peers who come from families at or below the poverty level. This inequity follows these children into grade school, contributing to lagging kindergarten readiness and reading proficiency at third grade. Given that over 80 percent of Central children are in families at or below poverty, efforts to close this literacy gap are critical.
We are investing in several avenues to help support reading from a young age.
First, our Read and Ride program encourages and motivates young readers to log the books they read and enter into a chance to win bikes, and we’re just about ready to send this year’s students off on two wheels for the summer. First offered to one classroom at George Washington Carver School in 2015, the program now serves all first and second grade students at the three Promise neighborhood schools, as well as pre-K students at 10 early learning centers. In collaboration with the Knights of Pythias, Starting Point and Kids Book Bank, children and families receive books to increase family reading time and build home libraries.
We’ve also partnered with The Literacy Cooperative to expand the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to children under five residing in the Central neighborhood. DPIL is a unique early years book gifting program that mails a brand new, age-appropriate book to enrolled children monthly through their fifth birthday, at no cost to the recipient. TLC will partner with Promise Ambassadors, libraries, early learning and daycare providers, pediatricians and other medical providers to enroll families living in Central. Stay tuned for more about this in the coming months.
Our own #PromiseReads initiative will help put Central’s young readers in the spotlight, offering books and reading opportunities at events throughout the year. #PromiseReads is all about encouraging children and families to read together, and to share that reading time with us on social media – and, later this year, on the local news, with support from WKYC. Over the next several months, we’ll be promoting reading by hosting themed community events, rehabilitating our neighborhood’s Little Free Libraries and sharing photos and videos on our Promise Facebook and Twitter pages.
We know from last year’s data that the 2016-2017 school year was the first time all three Promise neighborhood schools passed the Ohio third-grade reading guarantee. This is an encouraging trend, and one we’re hoping to see maintained in the coming years.
Keep checking back on our website for more updates about our upcoming initiatives, as well as how you can get involved. I know that by continuing to work together, we can truly make change in our community.
Susanna H. Krey, President, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland