By Chrissy Howard, Manager of Reading Success by 4th Grade, and Teresa Liberti, Executive Director of Gray House
You may not have noticed the Gray House - yet. The Gray House is a small neighborhood human service agency located on Sheldon Street in the North End of Springfield, Massachusetts.
Started in the 1980s, it has been working to empower people in the city to break the cycle of poverty. The Gray House helps its neighbors across the Greater Springfield community to meet their immediate needs and addresses the root causes of poverty by operating a food assistance program, adult education programs and after-school and summer youth programming. Over 5,000 people are helped by these programs each year!
I recently met with Executive Director, Teresa Liberti, on a visit to The Gray House’s summer learning program, Kids’ Club. She is currently serving 19 kids in a full day, 4-week summer program. Major highlights this year have been field trips to the Springfield Museums, Basketball Hall of Fame, Springfield College, Connecticut Science Center and Lupa Zoo.
Improving Reading Outcomes
Teresa is a very dedicated partner, and she and her team are ensuring that all of the kids are reading 30 minutes a day AND journal writing! The program also partners with the Connected Learning in Afterschool & Summer Partnership (CLASP) who provides them with a literacy coach, pre- and
post-literacy testing and data for each of the participants and professional development opportunities for their staff and volunteers. Before the start of last year’s summer program, 50% of the children were in the lowest level of oral reading comprehension. At the end of the program, 85.7% of the children were at or above benchmark for their age! 100% of the children in the program who were assessed made improvements in at least one reading skill. Gray House is committed to being a partner in this work of increasing literacy rates across the city.
In addition to helping the children improve their reading skills, Gray House also makes it fun. Each year, they break the children into reading groups based on their current reading levels and each group reads a specially selected book. This year, the books were donated by Springfield College and each child will be able to go home with their book that they’ve
been reading in the program.
Teresa told me how much the kids love reading during their summer program.
CLASP’s goal is to maintain reading levels over the summer, while we do that we also see increase in kids progress in reading. We highly value instilling a love or joy for reading. As an example,
A while ago, there was a special field trip planned, and the kids were told they wouldn’t have time to read that day. They started shouting and begging the counselors to bring books on the bus so they could read on the ride back! This is the kind of joy we want all kids to have when reading.
The Gray House is open to opportunities to partner with individuals and organizations that can provide volunteers, monetary and in-kind donations such as snacks and supplies for both their summer and after-school programs. To learn more, visit www.GrayHouse.org.