According to the Mid-Hudson Community Profiles, only 36% of Dutchess County’s fourth-graders passed their English standardized tests in 2016. Passing rates on state tests were significantly lower for low-income, African American and Hispanic students than for their peers (www.MHVCommunityProfiles.org). In response to this literacy crisis, United Way hosted two Community Conversations on Early Learning. The events brought community leaders, stakeholders and families together to assess this community-wide challenge and to identify attainable solutions.
By the time children enter kindergarten, it is believed that those in low-income families will have heard 13 million words, compared to 45 million words heard by children in professional families. This has a direct impact on brain development and learning ability (www.nces.ed.gov). United Way’s work in our community has found that mentors and tutors can make a significant difference in children’s lives. Providing an at-risk child with a positive, trained role model not only helps the child improve their educational skills but also shows them to value education, offers confidence, gives stability, and inspires them to achieve.
To fight the low-literacy trend, United Way is working with local organizations to empower students by helping them develop skills for grade level enhancement. We do this by supporting programs that offer structured learning experiences outside of the classroom. With your help, our Literacy Initiative:
· delivers quality after-school programs that provide students with academic and social skills they need to successfully enter college and the workforce.
· gives elementary students weekly garden lessons. In these lessons students practice math, science and writing skills while learning about health and wellness, tasting veggies and gardening.
· recruits volunteers to provide students reading below grade level with a one-on-one mentor to work with them to improve literacy scores and instill a love of reading.
· supplies supplementary literacy and academic achievement classes at no cost to families.
· provides high school, college and professional adult mentors and tutors to elementary school-aged youth to share tools and resources for academic retention and progression.
· supports parents to become their child’s first teacher at an early age