Closing the literacy gap together: Raising a Reader – MA

May 25, 2023

Raising a Reader partners with community organizations and early childhood centers to make reading more accessible for all.

Raising A Reader (RAR-MA) has been working to close the literacy gap in Massachusetts communities for over a decade. To reach more families, they partner with community organizations and early childhood centers who help implement their evidence-based dual intervention model.

“Reading allows kids to create new worlds beyond the bounds of the one they live in. I believe reading is key in helping children grow to be kind people,” said Huong Vu, an Implementer Liaison for two of Raising a Reader MA’s partners: the Dorchester Family Engagement Network (DFEN) Playgroup and The Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester.

Today, families at both The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the DFEN Playgroup participate in RAR-MA programming. Children have access to diverse books through RAR-MA’s signature Red Book Bag, and parents have the opportunity to learn about how they can help their child develop early literacy skills using a series of dialogic reading practices.

One of the ways that Huong felt RAR-MA was most impactful to members of the Dorchester community was how it made reading more accessible. Huong recalls that, for many families, the Red Book Bag Rotation takes away the worry of having to buy books or go to a local library. Their diverse book approach and parent programming take the pressure off of parents who worry they will not be able to help their child read if they are not fluent English speakers. 

The programming collaboration made a difference through the pandemic as RAR-MA and the DFEN Collaborative offered two socially distanced and one virtual storywalk throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.

Though Huong recalled having great success with RAR-MA storywalks before the pandemic, she felt apprehensive about trying to create a virtual storywalk that would be just as engaging: “We had to think about how to still get the attention of the kids as a story walk is primarily about both walking and reading, and due to the pandemic, we had to cut the walking. However, we found a way to make it meaningful to families. We had guest speakers read different parts of the story and we compiled it into a single video which we shared with families alongside craft materials they could do during the story walk. Additionally, we had a video about dialogic reading, replacing the pop-up shop for parents. I was nervous we wouldn’t have a good turnout, but it ended up being very popular.”

RAR-MA’s partnership with both The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the DFEN Playgroup has continued to encourage parents and caregivers to engage in reading with their students in spite of language barriers, and even through a pandemic. It has helped many children get an early start to their reading careers.

Collectively known as the DFEN Collaborative, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester and the DFEN Playgroup have partnered with Raising a Reader MA (RAR-MA) for five years now as part of their greater mission to educate and assist members of the local Dorchester community. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Dorchester serves children from a few months of age to age eighteen offering school programming for younger children and after school programming for those five and older. The DFEN Playgroup offers similar community programming and family engagement and serves children from birth to two years of age.

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