New England News
1:26 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

New Law, Non-profits Focus on Childhood Literacy in Massachusetts

With the recent signing of legislation by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to help close the achievement gap in young students, a campaign to improve childhood literacy in the Berkshires is preparing for an official launch. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard has more…

Last week Governor Patrick signed a bill that would form a statewide task force to improve and organize literacy programs across Massachusetts.

According to the recent MCAS testing in the Commonwealth, about only 60% of third graders are testing at the recommended grade level. State Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, who advocated for the law,  said that Massachusetts’ gateway cities are an important place to start improving early childhood literacy.

Downing highlighted the efforts in cities like Springfield and Pittsfield. Both cities recently won All-America City Awards from the National Civic League on their steps taken to improve reading proficiency.

A 15-city wide initiative called Pittsfield Promise is set to officially kick off next month with a goal of improving 3 rdgrade literacy skills by ensuring 90% of students are reading at the proper level by 2020. That effort is being coordinated by the Berkshire United Way. President and CEO Kristine Hazzard says one program was already put in place this past summer, to reduce the so-called “summer slide”

A coalition of businesses and non-profits took part in a Word of the Day campaign, highlighting a new word everday that 3rdgraders should be able to know and understand.

On October 17th, Pittsfield Promise will host a formal kickoff event.

Pittsfield Promise is coordinating with Berkshire Community College for an Asset-Based Community Development initiative. Though the school’s Service Learning program, a small group of sociology students will begin collecting data on where to target early literacy efforts in the community. Mary Parkman, Service Learning Coordinator Berkshire Community College explains….

Parkman said that the students from BCC will conduct one-on-one interviews with local residents.

Berkshire Community College recently received an $88,000 state-funded grant in part to enhance their service learning programs as part of Massachusetts’ Vision Project to improve college preparedness and graduation rates.