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YMCA program works to stop summer learning loss

YMCA program works to stop summer learning lossAh, summer. For kids, it is day after day of unlimited freedom. No classes, no schedules, no homework. It is the best of times.

It is also the worst of times, at least from an education perspective.

Learning loss is a real threat to students over the summer. While nearly every student loses a little, research has shown that students from low-income households lose the most: up to two months of reading skills.

Summer after summer, these kids continue to lose ground in comparison with their peers. By the time they reach the fifth grade, students from low-income households are as much as three grade levels behind, according to The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

To make matters worse, students from disadvantaged homes often start out behind: more than 50 percent of kids entering kindergarten each year are not ready.

“It’s a big problem, not just in Fayette County, but all over the nation,” said Jessica Berry, vice president of youth development for the YMCA of Central Kentucky.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading reports that 67 percent of children nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. The consequences of this are significant, undermining attempts to end generational poverty, close the achievement gap, reduce the high school dropout rate and compete in the global economy.

Doing something about it
The YMCA of the USA developed the Summer Learning Loss Prevention (SLLP), in conjunction with educators and parents, to address the reading gap among first- and second-graders from low-income households.  The program, known locally as Y Readers is offered at three area elementary schools: Cardinal Valley, James Lane Allen and the Academy at Mill Creek.

“We rely heavily on the schools and the teachers to identify kids who might benefit from the program,” Berry said. Recommendations are based on reading skills, grades, test scores and teacher evaluations. The child’s name and information is shared with the YMCA after school faculty only to discuss the program with the parent/guardian and receive permission to do so.

“Participation in the program is free. Students meet Monday through Thursday for six weeks. Mornings focus on developing reading skills while afternoons are devoted to enrichment activities such as art, music, science, age-appropriate literature and physical activity,” Berry said. Thursday is field trip day, with kids visiting the park, museums, the Y … swimming lessons are often included in the program. Transportation is provided to students at Mill Creek and James Lane Allen, while most Cardinal Valley students walk to school. All students receive free breakfast and lunch.

Class size is kept small – no more than 16 kids per grade level per school, and are taught by certified teachers, typically the same teachers who are already on staff at the school.

Response to the program from students, teachers and parents has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Parents tell us their kids are reading more, and better. Teachers report the children have improved both their overall academic achievement and reading level,” Berry said. Students are tested before and after the program to measure change. “Seventy  percent of those who complete the program showed improvement between their pre- and post- test.”

The Y Readers Program gets under way June 6 at James Lane Allen and Cardinal Valley and June 20 at the Academy at Mill Creek. If you believe your first- or second-grader might benefit from the program, please talk to your school or email Kelly Easton at keaston@ymcaky.org for more information.

“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of reading,” Berry said.

“It truly opens the door to success.” The YMCA of Central Kentucky is proud to collaborate with these local schools, teachers, sponsors and partners to help make the future brighter for all youth.

Sponsors and Partners
The YMCA of Central Kentucky would like to thank the following sponsors and partners for their support of Y Readers:
• Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc.
• PNC Bank
• Bluegrass Community Foundation
• Lexington Fayette Urban County Government
• The YMCA of the USA (Y-USA)

Back to School Rallies set for July 30

School may have just gotten out for the summer… but it’s already time to start thinking about back to school.

The YMCA of Central Kentucky is once again serving as the coordinating sponsor for the rallies, which will be held in 16 Lexington neighborhoods from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 30. The Back to School Rallies are made possible through the generosity of our sponsors: Fayette County Public Schools, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Rotary Club of Lexington, Fifth Third Bank and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (District 11).

These free rallies provide more than 5,500 elementary, middle and high school students with backpacks and school supplies. The Back to School Rallies program is an initiative of the Y, which has served as the central coordinator since 2011. Since that time, more than 35,000 children have been served.

Each neighborhood solicits its own grassroots support and plans its own food and events for the Back to School Rally. Supplies for all grade levels will be distributed; children must be with a parent or guardian in order to receive supplies. Information on colleges and careers will be available to high school students.

The goal of this initiative is to prepare children for school and to unify our neighborhoods for even greater self-advocacy and community planning. Neighborhoods build bridges with schools, churches and local businesses by establishing relationships for the future.

Volunteer opportunities are available during the week leading up to the rallies and on the day of the events. For more information, contact Kelly Easton at keaston@ymcacky.org.

Rally Locations
• Coolavin Park, 550 E. Sixth St.
• Douglass Park, 726 Georgetown St.
• Gainesway Center, 3460 Milano Road
• Gardenside Christian Church, 940 Holly Springs Drive
• Gethsemane Lutheran Church, 2185 Garden Springs Drive
• Green Acres Park, 1560 LaSalle Road
• Imani Family Life Center, 1555 Georgetown St.
• Lou Johnson Park, 190 Prall St.
• Marlboro Park, 1870 Benton Road
• Russell Cave Church of Christ, 1841 McCullough Drive
• Shiloh Baptist Church, 237 East Fifth St.
• Speigle Heights Park, 424 Speigle St.
• Total Grace, 1313 N. Limestone St.
• Valley Park, 2077 Cambridge Drive
• Woodhill Park, 457 Larkwood Drive

For the latest, up-to-date information about the Back to School Rally in your neighborhood, visit ymcacky.org/backtoschoolralliles.

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