Springfield City Library Will Take Up Campaign To Improve Children's Reading Skills

Mar 20, 2019

The Mason Square branch of the Springfield City Library. Officials gathered there Wednesday to announce the city's public library system will take charge of a 10-year old initiative to improve children's reading proficiency.
Credit WAMC

  A change in management has been announced at a nationally recognized child literacy campaign in western Massachusetts.

    The Davis Foundation announced Wednesday that the Springfield City Library is taking over management of the Reading Success by 4th Grade initiative, which the foundation launched a decade ago with a goal to dramatically raise reading proficiency in the Springfield Public Schools.

   "We are going to continue to support this work, but support it through a partnership with the library," said foundation Executive Director Mary Walachy.

      The foundation has made a three-year, $600,000 commitment to the city’s public library system to continue the work of improving children’s reading skills.

   The foundation launched the project in 2009 in response to national research that showed third grade reading proficiency was a predictor of a child’s later academic success. 

   When it started, only 28 percent of Springfield school children tested proficient on the third grade standardized reading test (MCAS) that was used at the time.  The results from 2016, the last year the MCAS was administered in Springfield, had third grade reading proficiency at 44 percent.

    The city library was a key participant in the literacy initiative from the beginning and helped conceive a campaign that encourages parents to spend at least 20 minutes a day reading to their children.

   City Library Director Molly Fogarty said it is a logical choice for the public library system to assume the management of the project.

    " We know getting books into children's homes is a key to reading proficiency," said Fogarty.  She reported that last year over 200,000 children's books were borrowed from the city's libraries.

   Using the money the library will receive from the foundation, a full time director for the literacy initiative will be hired so there will be no extra cost to city taxpayers.

   Leaders of the Davis Foundation made the decision to hand off management of the literacy initiative after the project director, Sally Fuller, retired last year.

   Fuller was at Wednesday’s announcement that took place at the Mason Square Library branch. She said it was good time for the foundation to give up the reins of the program.

   " ( The library) can look at what we've done and see what works and what doesn't," said Fuller. "It is a great time to step back and look at all the things we've pulled together and decide what is the best bang for our buck in this community."

   Among the steps the foundation took to improve reading proficiency were summer book lending and reading challenges in the public schools.  A program that had pediatricians give books to patients.   The Springfield Housing Authority set up mini-libraries in community buildings at several of the city’s public apartment complexes.

    The Davis Foundation’s program received awards each year from 2012-2017 from the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.