Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children
Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

In 2010, the Springfield Housing Authority used philanthropic funding to launch its Talk/Read/Succeed Program, a place-based early literacy initiative that helps children living in public housing become proficient readers by the fourth grade.

This year, the Massachusetts Legislature may invest public dollars into the program – potentially expanding this promising public/private partnership. An amendment to the Senate Ways and Means Budget filed by Senators James T. Welch (D-West Springfield) and Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) would give Talk/Read/Succeed $250,000 in state funding — an investment that would continue to support children’s early learning and lay the foundation for their future success in school and beyond.

The Talk/Read/Succeed Story

Back when it started, Talk/Read/Succeed relied on guidance and grants from the Irene E. and George A. Davis Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This philanthropic base of funding led to several positive outcomes.

The initiative has brought community-based organizations, schools, and families together to collaborate; and evaluation evidence has shown that relationships at all levels have been strengthened. In addition, summer learning opportunities provided through Talk/Read/Succeed have helped children make reading gains during a time when children typically experience the “summer slide” and lose ground academically.

As Sally Fuller, the Davis Foundation’s project director, explained in a Springfield Housing Authority video, Talk/Read/Succeed helped with “engaging families in the work of preparing their children to succeed.”

Last year, Fuller co-authored an article on the program, “Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage for Public Housing Residents,” that provided a parent’s point of view:

“‘I like the programs that help me with my kids,’ said Carla Santiago, a mother of three young daughters who has participated in the program since the early days. ‘It’s helped all of us get along better, and understand each other better,’ she added. ‘I’m much better at helping them with their schoolwork. Before I used to get frustrated. I can see the difference in all of us. We work better as a family.’”

According to Talk/Read/Succeed’s website, “Some two dozen local agencies participate, including United Way of Pioneer Valley, Square One, Springfield Education Association, and the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, the Springfield Parent Academy, the Behavioral Health Network, and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.”

Future Collaborations

Sustainability is always a challenge for small, privately funded initiatives, but collaboration and public support can help ensure the program grows.

“Springfield’s Talk/Read/Succeed initiative is one example of how diverse actors can come together to craft evidence-based, comprehensive programs that support families,” Harvard Law School student Ethan Prall wrote in a study conducted on behalf of Strategies for Children called, “Housing and Early Education: Policy Opportunities for Reducing Student Mobility.”

In his research, Prall found “ample opportunities for collaboration between public housing and early education programs, both center- and school-based.”

We look forward to seeing more collaborations among families, schools, city and state governments, community organizations, and private funders. These efforts promise to give children the strong start they need in reading to become productive students and successful adults.