The Springfield City Library is the new community-based home for the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative, after previously being managed by The Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation since the initiative's launch in 2009. Chrissy Howard is the new manager of Reading Success by 4th Grade, who brings with her a deep understanding of the initiative's work.
Following Sally Fuller’s retirement in 2018, the Davis Foundation engaged a consultant to assist in a process to identify a new community-based home for the initiative. Reading Success by 4th Grade was established by the Foundation as a way to galvanize the Springfield community around improving reading proficiency among Springfield’s children. https://www.readby4thgrade.com/
A critical juncture for reading success is at the end of third grade. Since undertaking the initiative led recently by Fuller and housed at the Davis Foundation, early educators, business and public policy leaders and Springfield Public Schools have collaborated on coordinating strategies and a public awareness campaign to advance early reading and reading proficiency.
Springfield City Library, the City’s public library, was identified as the backbone organization to manage and promote the initiative, and will continue to engage the community around improving reading proficiency. The Library hosts over 615,000 visitors a year, who borrow 630,000 items and attend 5,300 programs annually. It boasts over 20,000 cardholders under the age of 18. A strong community partner in the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative from its start, the Library founded the Springfield Early Literacy Coalition, helped conceive the #413Reads campaign, and is a lead partner in the #413Families / #413Familias texting program.
Howard, who most recently was at Springfield Public Schools, served as an Instructional Leadership Specialist in Literacy. She has also previously worked as a teacher, instructional coach, literacy leader and principal in Springfield and Worcester.
Howard earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Wheelock College; her Master’s in Education from Harvard University; and her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) from Simmons University, focused on urban elementary education. She is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at UMass Amherst in the Language, Literacy and Culture program.
Howard is active in the community as a member of the board of the YWCA of Western Massachusetts and the Harvard Club of Western Massachusetts. Howard was part of BusinessWest’s 40 Under 40 class of 2018. She is also a recipient of the Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Award from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Howard resides in Springfield with her husband, Geoff, and their two young daughters.
In a joint statement, Davis Foundation Directors Steve and John Davis said, “The work of improving the reading skills of children in Springfield is critically important and requires the entire community to embrace. We are gratified that the small effort started with the help of the Davis Foundation has grown to incorporate so many stakeholders. The time has come for the initiative to be embedded in the community, and there could be no better partner than the Springfield City Library. We look forward as the Davis Foundation and all stakeholders continue to hold ourselves accountable in improving reading proficiency, helping Springfield’s children achieve the success in school and in life that they deserve.”
Reading Success by 4th Grade has received national attention for its work, with Springfield being named winner of the 2017 All-America City Award at the national Grade-Level Reading conference in Denver, Colorado, given to only 15 cities nationally, for its leadership role in initiating community-wide strategies that raised the level of third grade reading proficiency from 33% in 2015 to 44% in 2016.
Springfield also achieved All-America City recognition in 2012, and was named a Pacesetter Community in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
Mary E. Walachy, Executive Director of the Davis Foundation, said, “Davis Foundation Directors were moved to launch an early literacy initiative as a result of the data on third grade reading proficiency. The Foundation takes a strategic and data-driven approach in its investments around education, and our efforts with Reading Success by 4th Grade are at the core of the measurable improvement in Springfield reading scores.
“The Foundation will continue its commitment to the grade-level reading proficiency of Springfield’s 3rd graders and the community’s work that begins with a child’s birth. We will continue to make an investment in Reading Success by 4th Grade through the City Library and believe this is the most appropriate organization to take on the work and expand community ownership,” Walachy said.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said, “The Davis Foundation is a cornerstone in our city. I am grateful to the Davis family and the Board for all of the commitments they have made to Springfield and its success. Thank you for entrusting this important literacy initiative to our Library.”
Molly Fogarty, Library Director, added, “We are the community’s home for early childhood literacy, reading, and learning. We are eager to expand on our long-term commitment to this collaborative work that is moving the needle on reading success for our children.”
Reading Success by 4th Grade was an outgrowth of the Davis Foundation-inspired Cherish Every Child initiative. The initiative was formed based on research indicating that a child who enters fourth grade unable to read proficiently is far less likely to graduate from high school and develop the skills essential to flourish in a knowledge-based economy.