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United Way Launches Ready To Read Initiative in Framingham

In the neighborhoods where Ready to Read will launch in Framingham, only 15 percent of third grader students scored proficient or higher on the 2013 MCAS exams.

Do you remember the first book that got you excited about reading? Thinking about The Little Engine That Could, Goodnight Moon, and The Cat in the Hat stirs up feelings of nostalgia for many people who have gone on to share their own favorite stories with a new generation of readers.
Sharing beloved stories keeps them alive for adults and fosters a love of reading in children who are eager to know just what kind of mischief a behatted feline might start. 

Unfortunately, not all children have the same access to books.

A 2006 study found that in middle income neighborhoods the ratio of books to children is 13 to 1; however, in low income neighborhoods, there is just one book for every 300 children.

Research shows that the simple act of reading to a child, from birth, has a major impact on the child’s love of learning, engagement in school, 
and success later in life. 

Since access to books is a key factor in children developing early literacy skills, being prepared to start learning how to read in kindergarten and achieving grade level reading by the end of third grade, limited access puts some children at a disadvantage from the start.

Children from low-income communities enter kindergarten without the basic literacy skills they need in order to start learning how to read. They start off behind their more affluent peers and never catch up, creating an achievement gap, especially for children in families facing poverty, from minority communities, and English language learners, far more than the general population.

Framingham has 5,308 children under the age of five, 900 of whom live in poverty (17 percent).

Because of Framingham’s diversity, this disparity is particularly important to the overall wellbeing of the community.

On the 2013 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams, only 42 percent of Framingham third grade students scored proficient or higher on the reading portions, compared to 
57 percent statewide.

While that difference may not seem significant, third graders in all of Framingham’s neighboring towns all scored higher than the state average for reading including 65 percent in Ashland, 81 percent in Natick, and 86 percent in Southborough. Only Marlborough did not exceed state averages with 48 percent.
 
Children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely than their peers to not graduate from high school on time. 

In the neighborhoods where Ready to Read will launch in Framingham, only 15 percent of third grader students scored proficient or higher on the 2013 MCAS exams.

Yet the situation is not without hope.

A simple, cost-effective and proactive solution to this problem is to read to children from the time they are born, especially since so much brain development occurs during the first years of a child’s life.

Children with access to books and who are read to build early literacy skills, become familiar with the alphabet, develop fine and gross motor skills, understand conventions like reading from left to right, and cultivate an increased vocabulary. Vocabulary is critical when considering the fact that by age three, children from low-income families have one quarter of the vocabulary of children from wealthier homes. The benefits of early literacy extend beyond academic success into the workplace with high achieving students earning higher salaries over the course of their lifetimes. 

The United Way of Tri-County, based in Framingham, is launching Ready to Read, its early literacy initiative.

Ready to Read provides children from low-income families with 12 new 
books to keep each year from birth to the time they enter kindergarten.
Increasing access to books in homes effectively helps children develop early literacy skills necessary to enter kindergarten ready to learn how to read.

Similar programs report that more than 70% of children who begin reading at home report increased home literacy activities and increased success when entering school.

United Way is partnering with the Framingham Housing Authority to ensure that new books reach children at an early age from birth to 5 who are most in need.

The Ready to Read program has received generous support from The Sudbury Foundation, EMC Corporation, and women and girls giving back in our local community through the United Way Women’s Alliance. 

The United Way of Tri-County and its Women’s Alliance are making a strong investment in communities and in families to ensure that all children have the resources necessary to succeed.

Help us reach our goal of providing new books to 100 children in our first year by making a donation. Just $25 provides one new book each month to a child enrolled in Ready to Read.

Visit the website to donate and help ignite a love of reading at an early age: http://www.uwotc.org/readytoread.

For a small investment, the outcomes are extraordinary. 

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Above is a press release from the United Way of Tri-County.

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